Sensors for Missions
An onboard payload may be seen in most instances as the “Raison d’Etre” for a UAV. It will define its capabilities, usability and hence market value. Large and medium UAV payloads exhibit significant differences in size and computing capability when compared with small UAVs. The latter has stringent size, weight, and power requirements, typically referred as SWaP, while the former still exhibit endless appetite for compute capability. The tendency for this type of UAVs (Global Hawk, Hunter, Fire Scout, etc.) is to increase payload density and hence processing capability. An example of this approach is the Northrop Grumman MQ-8 Fire Scout helicopter, which has a modular payload architecture that incorporates off-the-shelf components. Regardless of the UAV size and capabilities, advances in miniaturization of electronics are enabling the replacement of multiprocessing, power-hungry general-purpose processors with more integrated and compact electronics (e.g., FPGAs).
The payload plays a significant role in the quality of ISR (intelligent, surveillance, and reconnaissance) data, and also in how quickly that information can be delivered to the end user. At a high level, payloads are important enablers of greater mission autonomy, which is the ultimate aim in every UAV.
This section describes common payload sensors and introduces two cases in which onboard payloads were used to solve real-world problems. A collision avoidance payload based on electro optical (EO) sensors is first introduced, followed by a remote sensing application for power line inspection and vegetation management.
KeywordsGlobal Navigation Satellite System Global Navigation Satellite System Graphic Process Unit Power Line Collision Avoidance
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