UAS & Robotics

One vision for the future of small and micro UAVs

The military continues to purchase and procure large, weaponized unmanned aircraft systems, but the future of UAS also will be much smaller, with tiny drones used for a variety of surveillance and other purposes.

In addition to developing insect-like flying systems, a key to getting functional surveillance drones down to micro size is making sensors that are small enough to do the job. At an event March 3 hosted by TandemNSI, where innovators pitched their ideas to government experts in search for a grant award, Centeye showcased one such technology— exceptionally compact vision systems for use on robotics like tiny unmanned vehicles and embedded platforms.

Centeye’s concept focuses on systems as small as three grams and under for purposes of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.  

Military organizations are exploring the idea of tiny ISR drones. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, for example, is looking to develop a small, fast moving, bird-like device that can be deployed with small squads and scope out complex and cluttered urban areas autonomously.

Centeye’s semi-autonomous technology is similar, if a little different, to what DARPA is researching. The company’s sense and avoid technology, as well as its ability to hover in a static location and compensate for wind gusts, is vision-based. Human operators, meanwhile, provide the height and coordinates for its location. The technology also works independently of GPS, focusing on near-earth activity with a ceiling of 10 meters.

Centeye’s representative at the expo, Geoff Barrows, talked about some of the advantages of going small. He envisions going where cameras typically cannot. Smaller drones have less of an impact when they crash and cause less damage. Additionally, they are more accessible than larger drones.

Centeye has been funded in the past by the Air Force for a few projects, one entailing ISR in the dark using micro platforms.

The company’s vision-based stability, compact, fast vision sensors and vision sensors for various monitoring such as traffic, presents myriad applications for both civil and military, he said. Centeye won a $1,000 grant at the TandemNSI expo for the most socially beneficial platform.

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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