Army Readies Charging Port for Autonomous Drone Swarms

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Courtesy University of Illinois Chicago,
Courtesy University of Illinois Chicago,

October 13, 2020 | Originally published by U.S. Army on October 5, 2020

ABERDEEN PROVING GROUND, Md. — A swarm of hundreds of unmanned air vehicles will soon descend on unmanned ground vehicles to autonomously recharge, thanks to U.S. Army-funded research now underway at the University of Illinois Chicago.

The U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory awarded the University of Illinois Chicago a four-year, $8 million cooperative agreement in August to develop foundational science in two critical propulsion and power technology areas for powering future families of unmanned aircraft systems, or UASs.

This collaborative program will help small battery-powered drones autonomously return from military missions to unmanned ground vehicles for recharging. The university is developing algorithms to enable route planning for multiple teams of small unmanned air and ground vehicles.

Dr. Mike Kweon, program manager for the laboratory’s Versatile Tactical Power and Propulsion Essential Research Program, said the research on route planning is critical to the Army, which needs intelligent, small UASs that can find optimal routes during a military mission to autonomously return to unmanned ground vehicles, known as UGVs, for recharging. This will optimize the operational range extension and time on mission.

The use of fast, recharging batteries and wireless power transfer technologies will allow multiple small UASs to hover around unmanned ground vehicles for wireless charging, and this will not require Soldier involvement.

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