I spent most of my time at the 2010 AUVSI (Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International) show filming video interviews that you can check out at EngineeringTV.com. I've finally been able to catch my breath and provide a written summary here of some of the trends I noticed. You can also check out the AUVSI Day 1 Showcase video I recorded. As I wrote this there were more videos were being posted so I don't have direct links to everything I comment on later in this article.
One thing that was very apparent this year is that unmanned vehicles are shipping in a big way. Platforms like General Atomics MQ-1 Predator are in the news (see "Fighting a real war in a virtual cockpit"). Smaller unmanned robots are in demand like QinetiQ’s Dragon Runner (see "QinetiQ’s Dragon Runner robots are sent to Afghanistan to support British troops") although there tends to be less coverage of these since they tend to save lives rather than lauch missles. Check out one of our Dragon Runner videos at EngineeringTV.com.
Last year I did Seaglider video that looked at one of iRobot's maritime platforms. This year I got to hear about how the Seaglider was used to track underwater oil plumes of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico (see Unmanned Seaglider undersea vehicles could cut through debates about underwater plumes and the quantity of oil spilled in Gulf of Mexico, Scientific American).
Single robots and unmanned vehicle use is still the norm but multiple robots and even swarms are becoming more common in research and eventually in the field. I had a number of chats with researchers as my alma mater, Georgia Tech, about their multitude of flying, swimming and rolling robots at AUVSI. You can check out the video interviews with Georgia Tech Research Institute researchers at EngineeringTV.com in the AUVSI 2010 section.
I also saw some impressive robots that will likely save lives in the air in the future. Rockwell Collins was showing how to keep a model aircraft flying even after it lost 80% of its right wing <(see Rockwell Collins reaches new heights in UAV damage tolerance flight testing). Of course, you have to check out our Rockwell Collins UAV Damage Tolerance video on this.
AUVSI was home to hundreds of robots but this year there were a lot of other vendors there with products that supported or used these robots. Many of these companies will be familiar to Electronic Design readers especially those interested VITA's OpenVPX specification that I recently wrote about (see OpenVPX Accelerates Military Time-To-Market). For example, Themis was showing off their Nano-ATR (on EngineeringTV.com) that has been proposed as a small form factor for VITA. I also did a video interview on the Elma Group's support for OpenVPX chassis.
Managing all the video information coming from robotic systems is a challenge simply because of the amout for information being generated. I spoke with a number of vendors including Z Microsystems and 2d3 at AUVSI to check out their wares. In the Z Microsystems video you can check out the multiscreen management system for high flying UAVs. At the other end of the spectrum, the 2d3 video highlights how to manage a video database with geocoordinates. This platform targets users with a minimum of video processing expertise. Managing and processing all this information is almost more challenging from both a user and application developers perspective than the robotic hardware and software used to generate the content.
For those who are mechanically inclined, we did stop off at a few other booths showing some interesting engines and other mechanical technology. For example, Axial Vector Energy Corporation (AVEC) was showing off a new, lightweight, heavy fuel-burning, partially ceramic, 30 HP unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) engine. Check out the AVEC video for a view of the engine in action.
I'll be writing up a few more of the many things I saw at AUVSI in the next few days so stay tuned. And definitely check out the videos that Curtis Ellzey and Terry Knight will be posting on EngineeringTV.com.