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VOLUME 37 NO. 8 | NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2019

THE 2020 MEDIA KIT IS NOW AVAILABLE TO READ ONLINE!

UNMANNED SYSTEMS IN

AGRICULTURE ON THE COVER

NEW TOOLS FOR AG

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NEW DRONE CONTROLS

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CROP SPRAYING WITH DRONES

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Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International

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STAFF CENTRAL

RISING STREAM OF DATA WILL FUEL UNMANNED SYSTEMS DEVELOPMENT A variety of technologies, including artificial intelligence, 5G telecommunications networks, and sensors, scale across the unmanned systems domains to provide actionable data that is enabling autonomy. The impact of this innovation on the world’s economy, lifestyle and society will be substantial. The idea of using automation to increase human potential can be traced as far back as the Industrial Revolution. The invention of the steam engine allowed machines to do in minutes what previously took workers hours or even days. In the early 1900s, Henry Ford’s automated assembly line made it possible to sell the Model T for an affordable price, paving the way for widespread automobile use and forever changing the way people travel. And since the advent of computing, artificial intelligence combined with automation has made unmanned technology smarter and more intuitive. From the smartphones in our pockets to the digital assistants in our living rooms, connected devices are increasingly being integrated into our everyday lives. By 2025, the International Data Corp. estimates we will interact with one of these connected devices every 18 seconds. Right now, only one percent of all data collected by these devices and other small computers is analyzed and used. But in just five years, when our interaction with small computers will dramatically increase, analysts project that figure will rise to 37 percent,

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Brian Wynne

President And CEO, AUVSI

Telling personal stories about how unmanned systems improve our everyday lives ... will be critical to furthering public acceptance of unmanned systems.

opening a potential $3-5 trillion in untapped market opportunity for data analytics. It’s clear that information provided by that data will transform not just automation and AI, but our entire economy and society as well. As unmanned technology advances, Intel Corp. estimates that a single autonomous vehicle could soon generate four terabytes of data every day — the same amount generated by 3,000 people today. Eventually, autonomous vehicles alone will generate more data than the Earth’s entire population does now. This issue of the magazine focuses on how data collected by unmanned technologies is benefitting the agriculture industry. Here you will learn how autonomous and robotics systems are operating on the ground and in the air to process data to effectively manage crops. For instance, autonomous systems are being used to survey fields and pinpoint areas that may need more water, allowing farmers to conserve water and irrigate their crops more precisely. Telling personal stories about how unmanned systems improve our everyday lives in ways such as these will be critical to furthering public acceptance of unmanned systems, and, subsequently, the success of our industry. In 2020, we look forward to sharing even more of these experiences with you in the pages of Unmanned Systems.


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CONTENT

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NEW TOOLS FOR AG

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NEW DRONE CONTROLS

Drones, software provide farmers with extra tools to manage data

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North Dakota wind farm leverages obstruction lighting control radar to operate drones

TECHNOLOGY GAP

Robotics hold promise for agriculture, but cost still an obstacle

CROP SPRAYING WITH DRONES Aerial spraying with drones gains traction, slowly

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DEPARTMENTS

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Industry Trends • UPS awarded Part 135 certification • Industry pioneer Dennis Blidberg passes

Essential Components • Moxi hospital robot begins its rounds • Sea Machines, Metal Shark intro USV

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Company Highlight

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Testing, Testing

AeroVironment seeds universities with Quantix drones, software

Dynetics working toward demo for DARPA Gremlins program

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Membership Profile

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Far Out

Christian Ramsey, uAvionix

Robotics offer hope for elderly, people with disabilities


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REGULATORY UPDATE Drone incursion task force calls for coordination, federal funding

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Chapter News Updates from Mountain West, Silicon Valley, Atlanta

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Social Update Trending news on AUVSI’s social media feeds

VIEWFINDER Cancun, Mexico

HAPPY BIRTHDAY

RoboNation marks 10 years with STEM push, new robotic challenges


2700 S. Quincy St. | Suite 400 | Arlington, VA 22206 USA P: +1 703 845 9671

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BOARD OF DIRECTORS

AUVSI STAFF

Officers

Executive Team

Mark Gordon Chairman of the Board Stratom Inc. Suzy Young Executive Vice Chairman University of Alabama, Huntsville William Irby Treasurer L3 Technologies Dallas Brooks Immediate Past Chairman Miss. State/ASSURE UAS Center of Excellence

Directors 2017 – 2020 David Agnew, Dataspeed Inc. Nevin Carr, Leidos Brian Chappel, Northrop Grumman Corp. Dyan Gibbens, Trumbull Unmanned Brendan Schulman, DJI Robert Sturgell, Collins Aerospace

2018 – 2021 Ben Gielow, Amazon Marke Gibson Robert Hess, Unmanned Perspective LLC Houston Mills, UPS Susan Roberts, Panasonic Aviation Corp.

2019-2022 Sean Bielat John Coffey, Cherokee Nation Technologies Suzanne Murtha, AECOM Steven Nordlund, The Boeing Company Thomas Reynolds, Hydroid Kongsberg Jim Thomsen, Seaborne Defense

Unmanned Systems is published eight times a year as the official publication of the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International 2019 by AUVSI, 2700 South Quincy Street, Suite 400, Arlington, VA 22206 USA. Contents of the articles are the sole opinions of the authors and do not necessarily express the policies or opinion of the publisher, editor, AUVSI, or any entity of the U.S. government. Materials may not be reproduced without written permission. Authors are responsible for assuring that the articles are properly released for classification and proprietary information. All advertising will be subject to publisher’s approval and advertisers will agree to indemnify and relieve publisher of loss or claims resulting from advertising contents. Annual subscription requests may be addressed to AUVSI. Unmanned Systems is provided with AUVSI membership.

Brian Wynne, President and CEO, bwynne@auvsi.org Chris Puig, Special Assistant to the President & CEO, Board Liaison, cpuig@auvsi.org Heather Lee Landers, Executive Vice President and Chief Strategy Officer, hlee@auvsi.org

Member Services and Chapters Michael Wilbur, Director, Member Services, mwilbur@auvsi.org Melissa Bowhay, Associate Director, Membership, mbowhay@auvsi.org Amanda Bernhardt, Chapter Relations Manager, abernhardt@auvsi.org Lucy Haase, Data Integrity Specialist, lhaase@auvsi.org Emma Ferguson, Member Services Associate, eferguson@auvsi.org

Advocacy and Public Affairs Tom McMahon, Senior Vice President, Advocacy and Public Relations, tmcmahon@auvsi.org Drew Colliate, Director, Government Relations, dcolliate@auvsi.org David Klein, Research Analyst, dklein@auvsi.org Michael Smitsky, Manager, Advocacy and Government Relations, msmitsky@auvsi.org

Regulatory and Safety Affairs Tracy Lamb, Vice President, Regulatory and Safety Affairs, Chief Pilot, tlamb@auvsi.org Jenny Rancourt, Certification Manager, jrancourt@auvsi.org

Publications and Content Brett Davis, Vice President, Publications & Content, Editor, bdavis@auvsi.org Brian Sprowl, Staff Writer, bsprowl@auvsi.org

Meetings and Conventions Staci Butler, Vice President, Meetings and Conventions, sbutler@auvsi.org Karissa Bingham, Senior Meetings Manager, kbingham@auvsi.org Lindsay Voss, Director, Education, lvoss@auvsi.org Debbie DesRoches, Registration and Housing Manager, ddesroches@auvsi.org Shannon Whitney, Education Manager, swithney@auvsi.org Nicole Mattar Meetings Specialist, nmattar@auvsi.org

Business Development Mike Greeson, Director, Business Development and Strategy, mgreeson@auvsi.org Wes Morrison, Senior Business Strategist, wmorrison@auvsi.org Alex Mann, Business Operations Manager, amann@auvsi.org

Operations Bob Thomson, Senior Vice President, Operations, bthomson@auvsi.org Karen Blonder, Director of Information Technology, kblonder@auvsi.org Kyle Culpepper, Senior IT Analyst, kculpepper@auvsi.org Mo Ahmed, IT Support Specialist, mahmed@auvsi.org Librada “Rosie” Brown, Staff Accountant, rbrown@auvsi.org Maria Ross, Staff Accountant, mross@auvsi.org

Marketing & Partnerships Stephanie Robert, Director, Marketing, srobert@auvsi.org Saloni Patni, Marketing Specialist, spatni@auvsi.org Daniel Benavides, Creative Strategist, dbenavides@auvsi.org Sabine Hannoush, Graphic Designer, shannoush@auvsi.org

RoboNation Staff

Contributing Authors

Freelance writer Nick Adde has covered technology and personnel matters, primarily relating to the U.S. armed forces, since 1983. Daryl Davidson is executive director of RoboNation. Retired U.S. Navy Capt. Edward Lundquist is a senior science writer with MCR LLC in Arlington, Virginia. Clark Perry is a writer living in Los Angeles..

Daryl Davidson, Executive Director, davidson@robonation.org Norma Floriza, Director of Operations, floriza@robonation.org Janelle Curtis, Programs & Development Director, curtis@robonation.org Hitesh Patel, Robotic Programs Director, patel@robonation.org Lindsey Groark, STEM Programs Director, lgorark@robonation.org Cheri Koch, Events Senior Manager, koch@robonation.org Julianna Smith, Communications & Outreach Coordinator, smith@robonation.org Lydia Bae, Office Manager, bae@robonation.org David Young, Product & Training Coordinator, dyoung@robonation.org Yi Walls, Staff Accountant, ywalls@robonation.org Cheryl Hedeen, Community Engagement & Training Coordinator, chdeen@robonation.org Laverne Imori, Customer Service Coordinator, limori@robonation.org


FEATURED EVENT NATIONAL DRONE SAFETY AWARENESS WEEK

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November 4-10, 2019 Nationwide

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AAAE/Woolpert Unmanned Aircraft Systems Conference Nov 17 - 19

Hilton Salt Lake City Center Salt Lake, Utah

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3:00-4:00 PM (EDT) Webinar

Automated Vehicles Symposium 2020 Jul 27 - 30

Hilton San Diego Bayfront San Diego, California

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AUVSI XPONENTIAL 2020 May 4-7

Boston Convention & Exhibition Center Boston, Massachusetts

Collins Aerospace.............................29 Free Wave...........................................19 Hitec ...................................................40 MicaSense .........................................33 Panoscan ................Inside front cover Trimble ...................................................3 Volz ......................................................28


INDUSTRY TRENDS

A UPS/Matternet drone preps for a delivery flight. Photo: UPS

UPS awarded full Part 135 standard certification UPS Flight Forward, the drone delivery subsidiary of UPS, has been awarded a full Part 135 Standard certification from the Federal Aviation Administration to operate a drone airline. With this certification, UPS Flight Forward will expand its drone delivery service to further support hospital campuses around the country, and provide customers outside of just the healthcare industry with delivery options. In the future, the company plans to use UAS to transport a variety of items for customers in several industries. The company also plans to routinely fly UAS beyond the operators’ visual line of sight. “This is history in the making, and we aren’t done yet,” says UPS CEO David Abney. “Our technology is opening doors for UPS and solving problems in unique ways for our customers. We will soon announce other steps to build out our

Underwater pioneer Dennis Blidberg passes away at 74 Colorful maritime robotics industry veteran Dennis “Dick” Blidberg died on Sept. 1 at age 74 after a brief illness. He was born in Manchester, New Hampshire, in 1945, later majoring in electrical engineering at the University of New Hampshire. He served in the U.S. Coast Guard and was stationed on an icebreaker in the Antarctic as well as on research vessels that traveled to the Arctic. 8

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infrastructure, expand services for healthcare customers and put drones to new uses in the future.” After being awarded the Part 135 Standard certification on Sept. 27, UPS Flight Forward immediately launched a drone delivery flight at WakeMed’s hospital campus in Raleigh, North Carolina. Using a Matternet M2 quadcopter, the flight was conducted under a government exemption that allows BVLOS operations, which the company says is also a first in the U.S. for a regular revenue-generating delivery. UPS partnered with drone-maker Matternet earlier this year to launch its healthcare delivery service on the WakeMed campus. With the certificate, UPS Flight Forward can fly an unlimited number of UAS with an unlimited number of remote operators in command, which allows the company to meet customer demand by scaling its operations. Under Part 135 Standard, the UAS and cargo can also exceed 55 pounds and fly at night, restrictions that previously governed earlier UPS flights.

He started a research lab at UNH, the Marine Systems Engineering Lab, where he began developing autonomous underwater robots and mentored many students who went on to work in the field of robotics and ocean engineering. He later started his own lab, the Autonomous Undersea Institute, in Lee, New Hampshire, where he concentrated on developing technologies related to autonomous submersibles and investigated architectures for intelligent guidance and control of multiple autonomous vehicles, applied acoustic navigation, underwater robotics and biologically based solutions to vehicle systems design.


FLIR Systems buys assets of Aria Insights

FLIR's acquisition of Aria assets includes its tethered drones. Photo: FLIR Systems

FLIR Systems, which has been on an acquisition run lately, bought the intellectual property and some assets of Aria Insights, previously known as tethered drone pioneer CyPhy Works. Founded in 2008, CyPhy works sold tethered drones, particularly to military markets. It rebranded as Aria Insights earlier this year to focus on drone data management before shutting down shortly thereafter. One of its most well-known products was the Persistent Aerial Reconnaissance and Communications (PARC) tethered drone. FLIR says Aria’s assets will be integrated into its Unmanned Systems and Integrated Solutions Division, supporting the company’s technology portfolio, which has been built from its acquisitions of Prox Dynamics in 2016 and Aeryon Labs and Endeavor Robotics earlier this year. “We are proud of the technology our team developed through the operations of CyPhy Works and Aria, and we believe FLIR offers the best opportunity to see it make a difference and support critical missions in the years ahead,” says Lance Vandenbrook, former CEO of Aria Insights.

Speakers highlight importance of remote ID, safe ops at Hill Day One of the biggest topics of discussion during AUVSI’s annual Hill Day on Sept. 25 was remote identification and the progress, or lack thereof, on this rulemaking. “This is one issue we’re not going to let up on,” said Rep. Daniel Lipinski, D-Illinois. Like many in the UAS community, Lipinski, who co-chairs the House Unmanned Systems Caucus, believes the FAA is moving too slow on the rules for remote ID. These sentiments were echoed by Rep. Sam Graves, R-Missouri, the ranking member of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Unmanned systems are slowly being integrated into society through a variety of pilot programs and testing efforts. As this technology is tested more and more, failures are a real possibility, but Graves said he hopes these potential failures don’t undo all of the positive progress that various entities across the country have made. “What I worry about, more than anything else, is there being an accident and then the pendulum swinging way too far,” Graves said, adding that Congress has a “nasty habit” of doing that, “because then emotion plays into it, and we quit using data as a driver for legislation, and all of sudden now we use emotion.” Aside from potential technology mishaps, bad actors could also cause great damage, Graves said,

Sen. Jodi Ernst, R-Iowa, meets with industry representatives from Iowa and Indiana. Photo: AUVSI

which could also lead to long-term negative ramifications. “Every industry out there has the folks out there that don’t play by the rules, and that’s what we have to worry about,” Graves said. Hill Day brings AUVSI members from around the country to meet with their lawmakers; this year, 123 meetings were held on Capitol Hill with lawmakers and their staff. NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2019 | UNMANNED SYSTEMS

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ESSENTIAL COMPONENTS

The hospital assistant robot Moxi was to begin work in early October. Photo: Diligent Robotics.

Diligent Robotics’ Moxi hospital robot begins its rounds Diligent Robotics of Austin, Texas, has launched its first product, a hospital robot assistant called Moxi, out of beta into market. The robot was expected to be introduced into a hospital in Texas on Wednesday, Oct. 2. An artificial intelligence company that builds “socially intelligent robots” that help people with their jobs, Diligent Robotics has also announced that it has raised $3 million in seed funding, which the company will use to support its launch of Moxi to its first full-time hospital customers. “Over the last year, Diligent Robotics has made rapid progress in delivering and testing Moxi in multiple hospitals,” says Rohit Sharma, partner at True Ventures, company board member and co-lead for the funding round. “The team continues to demonstrate unmatched robotics-specific innovation by combining social intelligence and human-guided learning capabilities. We’re thrilled to continue our partnership with Vivian and Andrea [cofounders Vivian Chu and Andrea Thomaz] as they build a world-class, leading robotics company.” Founded in 2017, Diligent Robotics says it is the first company to build a robot with social intelligence and mobile manipulation capabilities that helps humans in their work environments.

Olli self-driving shuttles are now operating in a suburb of Atlanta. Photo: Local Motors

Local Motors Olli shuttles begin operating at Peachtree Corners, GA After winning Local Motors’ Atlanta Olli Fleet Challenge, the City of Peachtree Corners announced that Curiosity Lab at Peachtree Corners deployed Local Motors’ Olli autonomous shuttle on Tuesday, Oct. 1, in its smart city living laboratory, a 1.5-mile-long autonomous vehicle test track. Attendees of the launch got the opportunity to take short rides in the driverless shuttle. “We are excited to deploy Olli in Peachtree Corners and support the City’s and Curiosity Lab’s effort to further autonomous vehicle research and innovation,” says Local Motors President Vikrant Aggarwal. “We are pioneering the development of future mobility solutions, like Olli, and we look forward to providing an opportunity for the local community to experience true connected mobility and learn from this innovation.” Two Olli shuttles will transport Peachtree Corners residents and workers throughout Curiosity Lab’s autonomous vehicle test track along Technology Parkway to a variety of shops, office buildings and other destinations.

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LM Procerus joins Persistent Systems' Wave Relay ecosystem

Lockheed Martin Procerus' Indago 3 UAS. Photo: Lockheed Martin

Baidu launches self-driving taxis in Changsha, China The Chinese technology company Baidu has debuted its Apollo Robotaxi in Changsha, Hunan province, China, with the first batch of 45 self-driving taxis having officially begun trial operations on urban roads. Apollo Robotaxi deploys L4 Hongqi EV vehicles, which were developed in collaboration with FAW Group, a Chinese carmaker. “The robotaxi trial operations in Changsha demonstrate that the Apollo Robotaxi is progressing from research and

Lockheed Martin Procerus Technologies (LMPT) has joined Persistent Systems' Wave Relay Ecosystem, an alliance of unmanned platform and sensor manufacturers that use Persistent’s Wave Relay mobile ad hoc network (MANET). By joining the ecosystem, LMPT will now offer a version of the Indago 3 UAS that runs on Persistent’s Wave Relay MANET, including the MPU5 radio, to special operators. “This is a big win for users in the Special Operations community,” says Shane Flint, vice president of business development for Persistent. “The users understand that, to truly network the battlefield, you need a robust, scalable solution that allows for unmanned systems and sensors to operate on a common network, empowering the whole team, and reducing weight on the operator. LMPT’s integration of Wave Relay makes this possible.”

development to a market reality, which will serve to provide rich feedback from real-world scenarios. Throughout the entire process, we have been and will always be committed to safety first and foremost,” says Zhenyu Li, Baidu vice president and general manager of its Intelligent Driving Group. According to Baidu, the vehicles will be able to perform a variety of intelligent self-driving functions, including changing lanes based on road and traffic conditions, assessing the movement of nearby vehicles and employing automatic avoidance when encountering aggressive overtaking by other vehicles.

Sea Machines, Metal Shark introduce new autonomous vessel Sea Machines and shipbuilder Metal Shark have introduced a new 29-foot autonomous vessel, the Sharktech 29 Defiant welded-aluminum monohull pilothouse vessel, which is being offered through Metal Shark’s “Sharktech” autonomous division. The Sharktech 29 Defiant is equipped with OEM-integrated, Sea Machines technology that offers a full range of advanced capabilities, including active control and collision avoidance. With Sea Machines' system onboard the vehicle, several modes of operation are possible, including traditionally manned, reducedcrew or unmanned autonomous operations to deliver “human-in-the-loop” navigation during both line-ofsight and over-the-horizon operations. Sea Machines and Metal Shark's new Sharktech 29 Defiant vessel. Photo: Sea Machines NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2019 | UNMANNED SYSTEMS

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COMPANY HIGHLIGHT

AEROVIRONMENT SEEDS UNIVERSITIES WITH QUANTIX DRONES, SOFTWARE By Brett Davis

AV’s Quantix takes off and lands vertically, then transitions to forward flight. All photos: AeroVironment

To help introduce students to the way drones and dronegathered data can aid in farming, AeroVironment has donated 87 Quantix drones and access to a related software package to the agricultural departments of 35 universities across the country. Among the recipients of the 2019 University Collaboration Project are Purdue, Ohio State, Cornell, the University of Florida, the University of Georgia, North Dakota State University and dozens of others. Most of the researchers have more than five years of drone experience, according to a company survey, so they aren’t newcomers to drone use. "We want to put it in the hands of agricultural experts and 12

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others to spread information on the usefulness of small UAVs in agriculture and survey markets," says Steve Gitlin, AeroVironment's chief marketing officer and vice president of investor relations. Those users "can demonstrate its utility so the next generation of growers and wildlife preservationists can understand how useful the technology can be.” The donated package includes the Quantix vehicle, a drone that can take off and land vertically and then transition to forward flight as a fixed-wing aircraft, enabling it to survey up to 400 acres in just 45 minutes, and the AeroVironment Decision Support System (AV DSS), a data analytics software system.


"It's an unusual looking aircraft," Gitlin says. "As we spent time with growers, we concluded they didn't want to have to be drone pilots. They were quite busy managing their business and dealing with all their uncertainties." The users have put the systems to work in a wide variety of areas, including some that stray from the central role of agriculture, he says. Researchers used the system for crop scouting; monitoring crops such as canola, corn and soybeans; yield prediction; vegetation mapping; monitoring sea turtle nesting beaches; counting large mammals such as cows; restoration of wildlands; active emergency response training, and others. “Putting a tool into the hands of the users and always being delighted at the innovative ways they come up with using it — it’s an amazing aspect of what we do.” For instance, Texas A&M University used its drone to collect visual and multispectral data of fields of corn, cotton and sorghum, including conducting 50 surveys of a corn field over 27 separate flight days. "It proved to be an exceptional UAV for conducting the crop surveys, performing flawlessly for each and every flight conducted with it," the university wrote in an analysis of its drone use. The Quantix is designed for ease of use. An operator defines the survey area on a tablet and the vehicle does the rest, providing both visual and multispectral imaging before returning to its launch place for landing. After the area is laid out and a user answers a few onscreen questions, "they literally swipe to launch," Gitlin says. The Quantix vehicle provides "quick look" data while in flight in case a survey needs to be adjusted, otherwise the data can be removed when it lands and processed by the AV DSS system, which provides advanced imaging processing and data analytics. Texas A&M reported that the images it obtained "clearly show the progession of plant growth in the research field during the growing season." "Understanding the experiences they [the universities] have gives us very valuable feedback," Gitlin says. The company, best known for making military systems such as the small Raven and larger Puma UAS, believes the agriculture market will continue to grow, although the rate of that — like the rate of growth of some crops — "is very hard to predict," Gitlin says. “We are convinced that the use of drones and drone tech is only going to grow in commercial applications … [but] we've been around long enough to know that you have to be patient for these things.”

The survey area is defined on a tablet, but Quantix flights are fully automated. The vehicle can survey 400 acres in 45 minutes.

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TESTING, TESTING

DYNETICS WORKING TOWARD FINAL DEMONSTRATION UNDER DARPA GREMLINS UAS PROGRAM By Brian Sprowl

Known as imaginary, mischievous imps that became the good luck charms of many British pilots during World War II, Gremlins have been rebranded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) through its Gremlins program. Low-cost, reusable UAS that will be launched from existing military aircraft while out of range of adversary defenses, Gremlins are being designed to integrate critical technologies such as advanced payloads, autonomous operations, and distributed battle management of swarming systems. Once they complete their mission, they will be retrieved in the air by C-130 transport aircraft and transported to a base of operations where ground crews will refurbish and prepare them for their next use within 24 hours. In 2016, DARPA awarded four companies Phase I contracts to conduct preliminary studies to pave the way for a proof-of-concept flight 14

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Dynetics’ Gremlins Air Vehicle is expected to undergo a final demonstration under the DARPA Gremlins UAS Program by summer 2020. Photo: Dynetics

demonstration that validates an air recovery concept for multiple Gremlins. One of the companies selected was Dynetics, a Huntsville, Alabama-based private applied science and information technology company. In 2017, Dynetics, along with another company, was awarded a Phase II contract to focus on technology maturation. After 12 months, Dynetics was selected as the final company for a Phase III contract, through which it is currently executing the demonstration phase of the Gremlins program. DARPA wants Dynetics to end the program with a final demonstration where it recovers four Gremlins vehicles in under 30 minutes using a C-130. According to Tim Keeter, Dynetics’ deputy program manager and chief engineer, the company is currently flight testing the UAS, with a goal of conducting the final demonstration by summer 2020.


“We have learned, I think, everything that we possibly can on the ground at this point,” Keeter tells Unmanned Systems. “The next step is just to get our air vehicle into the air, and watch it perform, and make whatever finetuning we need to make, and then go capture it with the C-130.”

Tackling challenges Dynetics is spending Phase III working to solve the puzzle of air recovery, a concept that can present a variety of challenges. For one, Keeter notes, you can’t put just any gadget onto an unmanned vehicle, as it has to be able to handle the gadget from a structural standpoint. Additionally, the vehicle has to have the precision navigation to get to its destination, and the ability to stow itself. “They asked us to do this on a C-130, so there’s the difficulty of once you dock with that thing, getting it through that wake flow, that turbulent wake flow around the 130 safely, and on there, and do that rapidly, very quickly and also safely so it doesn’t do any threatening motions,” Keeter explains, which leads to another challenge: safety. “Things can happen very quickly in the air, especially when you’re going to tether a powered system of that size together with a manned system. So, there’s a lot of attention given to that,” Keeter says. The recovery aspect is another challenge, as the systems needs to be able to roll onto a C-130 with no permanent modifications so it comes off and on. “Otherwise you’re having to build Gremlinspecific C-130s,” Keeter points out, which “doesn’t go over well with the budget committee.” The vehicle also needs to have its own safety features, mechanical features, electrical features, and software related features, so its location is known at all times and to ensure the manned component onboard the C-130 is aware of what’s going on and can make quick decisions if necessary. Dynetics has spent 2019 ensuring that the Gremlins operate the way they’re supposed to. In February, the Dynetics Gremlins team conducted a flight test of the docking system, onboard and ground-based control stations, and data links. The towed docking device, also known as the Bullet, “augmented now with an active control system, demonstrated the ability to improve overall system performance for airborne recovery, even in turns,” the company says. In March, the Dynetics team achieved the first flight of the Gremlins Air Vehicle (GAV) avionics, which were installed onboard the Calspan Variable Stability System (VSS) Lear Jet. The jet was also configured to mimic the

performance characteristics of the GAV. Dynetics says the Gremlins control station took over control of the jet once it entered the test range and directed it to fly multiple race tracks and maneuvers. The team conducted handovers between several in-flight and ground-based control stations to demonstrate the flexibility and redundancy of the integrated system and test the safety modes for the GAV. At presstime, the entire Gremlins team was prepping to begin flight testing of the integrated Gremlins system. A checkout flight of the GAV was scheduled first, followed by early recovery attempts. Once the team achieved its first recovery, they would build up to the final demonstration attempt where they have to recover four GAVs in under 30 minutes.

‘We’re a truck’ While there is yet no specific intended use case for the Gremlins, there is also no shortage of potential uses for the UAS. They could potentially be used for suppression of enemy air defense (SEAD) missions, where they could be equipped with payloads that would search and find, and conduct electronic warfare against, those types of assets. The technology could also potentially be used for other types of missions such as search and rescue operations or disaster relief overwatch. “The exciting thing is … we’re a truck. What payload do you want us to take forward and bring back, instead of crashing into the ground and we’re dying?” Keeter says. One of the benefits of this technology is that it is low cost, so if the technology gets shot down, Gremlins aren’t so expensive that they can’t just be refreshed as needed, with modularity in mind. “We’re designing this program to go the direction that the stakeholder who ends up owning this wants to go,” Keeter says. “We’re trying to create an unmanned system that is basically an open architecture node that will allow a variety of payloads to be integrated into it, to be used to project the air order of battle forward into a contested or denied environment, and operate in various capacities in order to protect high value assets, and other exquisite assets.” Keeter says the military is trying to move away from “monolithic chains” that are hard to adapt. “In the future, what they want is interfaces and abilities for lots of different things to interact and collaborate actively together, and then as soon as the enemy or the threat adapts, because the enemy is trying to stay alive as well, the force structure itself will adapt,” Keeter says. The early idea for Gremlins was “an enabler for distributed airborne warfare,” with different types of sensors fusing their data together to create a real-time picture of the battlefield. “Now a lot of that technology is being developed separately, but by providing a vehicle to transport that in and bring it back and recover it, that’s what Gremlins is doing for that. So you got all this tech that’s supposed to fuse data and have advanced sensors and advanced autonomy nodes and everything else; we’re the truck to carry that in.”

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TECHNOLOGY GAP

FARMING LOCAL: ROBOTICS HOLD PROMISE FOR AGRICULTURE, BUT COST STILL AN OBSTACLE By Clark Perry

Grocery stores offer more varieties of fresh produce than ever before. Recently, shoppers in California found something they’d never seen before on their shelves — leafy heads of baby lettuce and tasty herbs like Genovese basil, all grown and harvested by robots. Iron Ox, based in San Carlos, California, is a startup just a few years old, but is already revolutionizing the way we farm — and not a moment too soon, given the rising challenges that face the agriculture industry. In California, agriculture is a $54 billion business. It’s the number one supplier of food to Americans and ranks fifth to the entire world. In many ways the industry serves as a bellwether for farming challenges and solutions around the globe. According to a 2017 survey of nearly 800 farmers by the California Farm Bureau Federation, more than half reported severe labor shortages. Raising wages did little to combat the worker deficit, and farmers report they are increasingly looking to automation as a solution. Additionally, the climate crisis paints a dire picture 16

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Iron Ox’s Angus robotic plant module mover. All photos: Iron Ox

for future farming. With global weather conditions expected to change drastically as the result of global warming, technological solutions will be critical to insure the world’s food supply. The future of farming will likely be found not on acres of land, but in white sterile farm labs like those of Iron Ox. This futuristic garden is the domain of a robot named Angus, a hulking rectangular machine that does all the heavy lifting. Angus wheels itself slowly among rows of grow modules — flat beds where hydroponic crops are grown with water and nutrients. Sensing that the vegetables are ripe for harvest, Angus positions itself over a grow module and slowly lifts it, then transports it to a processing area. Here, Angus’ co-worker takes over — an autonomous robot arm that harvests each plant by gripping the individual grow pots, reducing damage to the plant itself. The robot arm sports four lidar sensors that, with two cameras providing 3-D data, analyze the position of each plant at a submillimeter scale. Its work requires a mechanical dexterity and delicacy never before needed in automated


farm equipment. Once processed, the vegetables are pakaged, loaded onto a truck, and delivered to nearby Bianchini’s Market, an upscale grocery chain that is the first to carry Iron Ox-branded produce on its shelves. Later that same night, a nearby family sits down to a healthy and delicious salad of baby lettuce, red-vein sorrel, and Genovese basil, most likely unaware that their food was grown locally, and by robots.

Automating the farm Farm automation is not a new idea. The modern mechanical cotton gin was invented in 1793, and its basic design concept can be traced back to handheld roller gins used more than a century earlier. Similarly, today’s combine harvesters, used for grains such as wheat, oats, soybeans, and corn, can be traced back to horse-drawn reaper machines invented in the early 19th century. The move to automation revolutionized both the cotton and grain industries. According to market research firm CB Insights, $1.1 billion of investment was poured into agriculture technology in 2018 alone. Robotics receives just a fraction of that funding, but that number is expected to increase as new innovations prove themselves. Until recently, robotics research in agriculture focused on the weeding and pruning stages of farming, or the harvesting of fruits such as apples and strawberries. As more robotics companies move into agriculture, it’s becoming clear that autonomous machines have the potential to solve many problems. Many lettuce growers in California now use robotic high-pressure “water knives” that cut the lettuce heads just above the ground and feed them on conveyor belts for processing. Earlier this year, Cambridge Consultants unveiled Mamut, an autonomous robot that explores farms to gather actionable data, allowing farmers to accurately predict plant health and crop yield. Plymouth, England’s Fieldwork Robotics recently joined forces with Hall Hunter, a major berry producer in the United Kingdom, to develop the world’s first raspberrypicking robot. It can pick 25,000 berries per day, almost twice that of a human working an eight-hour shift. The bane of any garden, no matter its size, is invasive weeds that strangle plants. Herbicides have been the go-to solution for decades, but robots may be a healthier solution. In nearby Portsmouth, Small Robot Company is testing robots that plant seeds, map fields, and kill weeds with lasers. The Swiss-based company Ecorobotix is developing a solar-powered weeding robot that can work non-stop for 12 hours a day. In America, big players are investing in these and other emergent technologies. In 2017, John Deere & Company acquired startup company Blue River Technology, a Sunnyvale, California-based firm. Blue River’s innovations include the LettuceBot, which patrols young lettuce fields and thins out unwanted lettuce seedlings that can crowd out primary seedlings. It can also target weed with tiny squirts of weedkiller, a sharp-shooting system that uses up to 90 percent less herbicide. The company says that a similar system is now being developed for cotton farmers. NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2019 | UNMANNED SYSTEMS

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Adapting to technology Iron Ox co-founder Brandon Alexander knows farming well. He grew up on a farm, as did his father and grandfather. He knows first-hand that agriculture must always be ready to adapt new technologies as they emerge. Throughout California’s rich agricultural region, farms use drones for visual inspection, sensor packages for soil and water data, and GPS imagery to guide planting and monitor crop health. Alexander sensed that robot farming was a possible next step, but he told Iron Ox cofounder Jon Binney that his first instinct was to learn from the people working the dirt. “Let’s not build robots until we talk to a bunch of farmers,” Alexander recalls saying. The two set off on a six-month road trip visiting farms throughout California, listening to farm owners and operators talk about the issues facing them, and what they expect to face in the future. In addition to the crippling labor crunch, now exacerbated by harsh immigration policies, one stunning fact stood out: crop yields are reaching a plateau. Since the 1950s, innovations such as artificial fertilizers and pesticides have increased crop yields in almost every area of farming. That advantage is slowing not just to a halt but will soon become a deficit. According to a worrisome report this year from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, there may be as much as a 70 percent crop yield deficit by 2050 — when the planet’s population tops 10 billion. For Alexander, the answer must be more than providing basic calories to the growing population. Iron Ox is intent on providing high-quality crops through total automation.

Hydroponics advantages It took Iron Ox three years to develop Angus and the robotic arm. Both are controlled by a proprietary cloud-based AI called the Brain. The challenges were steep and many. “Robotics hates variability,” explains Alexander. When applying any kind of sensor to farm crops, the AI must parse data from objects that are highly variable in size and appearance. Plants such as bell peppers, tomatoes, and strawberries can be occluded by leaves, vines, or branch canopies. Sensors must be able to accurately discern a baby tomato from a thick vine, or detect a ripe strawberry hiding beneath a large leaf. Additionally, many fruits and vegetables are soft objects, easily bruised or crushed unless handled with care. This requires end-detectors and motion-planning software that can be precisely calibrated to handle soft objects. “We’ve seen an unprecedented level of progress in machine learning, computer vision, dynamic motion planning, improved hardware on both the sensor and actuator side,” says Alexander. “We’re finally getting to a point where robots can handle fresh produce, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables outside of a lab.” Hydroponic farming reduces the amount of water needed by 90 percent and eliminates the need for pesticides or herbicides. Because Angus can continually shift each heavy plant module 18

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An Iron Ox robotic arm harvests plants, using four lidar sensors to move them without damage.

around for optimum growth — something no human could do — Iron Ox says this farming design can produce 30 times more produce than a traditional farm. This means the average crop yield of a one-acre traditional farm can be realized in just 1,000 square feet of indoor growing space. That tiny footprint suggests that similar robot-driven hydroponic farms could be situated near every town and city. Iron Ox is developing a scalable model of its hydroponic robot farm that can be installed anywhere. In sunny states such as California, natural light provides a reliable energy source for growing plants, but LEDs will be key for greenhouses in areas with shorter growing seasons.

Cost issues Despite the advantages of these innovations, Iron Ox and other companies have yet to conquer the escalated cost of their farming methods. “Right now, field farming is cheaper,” admits Alexander. He is quick to point out that climbing labor costs can account for 60 percent of a farm’s outlay. Traditional farming also comes with steep transportation costs. It’s not unusual for a head of lettuce to travel 2,000 miles before it lands in a grocery store produce bin. Alexander and his team imagine localized hydroponic farms springing up around major population areas, where produce is grown locally and travels short distances to land on shelves within hours of its harvest. It will take a lot of work to get there, but it’s clear that the seed has been planted.


FreeWave boards provide critical control, telemetry, and payload links to drones used for search and rescue, supply drops and more.

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REGULATORY UPDATE

TASK FORCE ON DRONE INCURSIONS AT AIRPORTS CALLS FOR COORDINATION, FEDERAL FUNDING By Brett Davis

The Blue Ribbon Task Force on UAS Mitigation at Airports, commissioned by AUVSI and the Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA), released its final report in early October and recommended that federal governments should work with airports to fight drone incursions and get additional funding to help accomplish that. The task force also says there is an “urgent need” for the Federal Aviation Administration and Transport Canada to establish drone detection standards and that local law enforcement has a role to play, beginning with a pilot program to demonstrate how that would work. The group, co-chaired by former FAA Administrator Michael Huerta and Deborah Flint, 20

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Task force co-chairs Deborah Flint, CEO of Los Angeles World Airports, and former FAA Administrator Michael Huerta, introduce the final report at Los Angeles International Airport. Photo: Los Angeles World Airports

CEO of Los Angeles World Airports, released an interim report in July and has now built off that for the final report, which made its debut at events at Los Angeles International Airport and at the National Press Club in Washington. “Unauthorized UAS have great potential to disrupt operations and the threat of intrusions introduces substantial risk highlighting the need for solutions that can safeguard airports from rogue UAS,” the report says.

Remote i.d. ‘foundational’ It notes that a pending FAA rule on remote identification — scheduled for release in September but now delayed until late December


ACI-NA’s Burke, left, and AUVSI’s Wynne discuss the task force report with reporters at the National Press Club. Photo: AUVSI

— is “a foundational regulation needed for technological solutions to work and the basis for other important rulemaking ... this regulatory hurdle continues to block progress on opportunities for the safe and successful integration of UAS into the national airspace.” AUVSI President and CEO Brian Wynne appeared at a National Press Club luncheon along with ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin Burke and said remote identification would immediately help with the problem of drone incursions. “Being able to identify what’s going on out there is key,” Wynne said. ... It simply allows us, by exception, to focus on what might be the problem,” as drones that can’t be identified are more likely to be up to no good. Most airport incursion incidents are caused by the “careless or clueless,” and the task force reiterates that “the importance of the ability to remotely identify and track these operators cannot be understated, as it would significantly reduce UAS incidents caused by the largest group of violators.” Beyond that, the report says airports shouldn’t be burdened with the task of reducing incursions alone. “Instead, as with many other operations at airports, such as airport security, UAS detection should be a shared responsibility between airports and federal governments,” the report says. ... Without a robust federal role, an unacceptable security gap will continue to exist at many airports across the U.S. and Canada.”

Funding needed That will cost money, and the report says in the United States, Congress should provide “appropriate resources on a consistent basis” so they can take the lead in monitoring UAS traffic in and around airports, although it does not specify an amount.

The report can be found online here:

Burke said the money is critical, although he said getting it from Congress will be a challenge, considering the multiyear FAA authorization has already been approved and the congressional calendar is in its waning days. “The later we go, the thinner the options get,” he said. “That doesn’t mean we can’t try.” The task force also “recommends Congress in the U.S. and Cabinet in Canada also consider new funding sources for airports to test, acquire, deploy, staff and maintain DTI [detection, tracking and identification] technology. The AIP grant program in the U.S. and the Airports Capital Assistance Program in Canada are already underfunded to support the infrastructure needs of airports today.” There is also a role for state and local law enforcement, the report says. The Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice have already demonstrated counter UAS technologies, but “federal authorities alone simply do not have the resources or manpower to accomplish this mission on a daily basis at airports across the country,” the report says. Local law enforcement doesn’t have the authority or resources to mitigate rogue drones in real time, but federal action would likely be too slow to help, the report says. “This presents a major security gap and a vulnerability to our respective national securities that must be addressed.” The task force concludes that the U.S. and Canada should extend the authority to engage in “kinetic or electronic” drone interdiction — that is, shooting them down or jamming them — to trained state and local police or the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. This new authority should begin with a pilot program in both countries, at six airports at least, to set up protocols, training and practice exercises. NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2019 | UNMANNED SYSTEMS

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MEMBERSHIP PROFILE

A few questions for industry movers and shakers The technology I’m most excited about is: A general category of technologies focused on reducing the human impact on planet Earth. This ranges from clean energy to clean water to cleaning up our oceans. Unmanned systems in air, sea, and land can all be deployed in significant ways towards this purpose. My favorite robot movie is: “Short Circuit.” I was 12, and already starting to program in BASIC. It fascinated me to think that a robot/ computer could rewire/reprogram itself. Number 5 is Alive! That movie plus another non-robot movie, “Top Gun,” ignited my passions in technology and aviation and set my entire career’s course. The best advice I ever got is: That’s a tough one. I think I learn more from the actions of positive and negative role models than the specific words they may impart on me. I’m lucky to have positive role models in my parents, my grandparents, and my wife and kids — who all show me ways to be a better husband, dad, and human. It’s easy to get swept away in the pace of things, and its good to be reminded to slow down. I suppose I wish I didn’t need that reminder so often. For fun, I like to: Cycle. Especially mountain biking or gravel road riding. I’m not much of a road cyclist, I like the dirt, scenery,

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adrenaline. Especially with mountain biking, it’s kind of a way to calm your mind. If you’re distracted — it doesn’t end well. Not getting much time to do either these days though, so I do get to bike commute to work on a paved railto-trail path every now and then. When I was a kid, I wanted to grow up to be: A fighter pilot (note the “Top Gun” reference earlier). My eyesight wasn’t perfect, so it seemed I was out of luck on that path. I got my PPL while in college and combined my love of aviation with my computer science degree in my first job as a software engineer developing flight simulators for training military and commercial pilots. I never made fighter pilot, but I’ve flown all sorts of fighter and bomber simulators! The best part of my job is: There is never a dull moment. Before joining uAvionix, the previous decade of my career was with large corporations with no ability to pivot. Sometimes I feel like we pivot twice a week! Both exciting and exhausting. The strangest thing in my office is: A Union Jack couch. It sits across from two replica London red phone booths in a common area of our office building. The uAvionix founder, Paul Beard, is from Manchester, and I spent the summer of 2017 in the U.K. with my family expanding our operations there. I’m kind of drawn to it, I suppose.


Christian Ramsey

President, uAvionix

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VIEWFINDER Reader Paul Kasica sent in this photo of water slides at the Float Fun Cancun water park in Cancun, Mexico. He took the colorful image with a DJI Mavic drone. Have a great photo you’ve taken with an unmanned system? Send it to Brett Davis at bdavis@auvsi.org

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FEATURE

DRONES, SOFTWARE PROVIDE FARMERS WITH EXTRA TOOLS TO MANAGE COMPLEX DATA By Brian Sprowl

Delair’s UX11 agriculture drone. Photo: Delair

P

recision agriculture using drones has become much less about the novelty of having an eye in the sky and much more about fusing data from a variety of sources and platforms — including drones, satellites, ground sensors and others — to enable farmers to make informed decisions. One company that has become a major player within the farming industry is Toulouse, France-based Delair, which provides visual data management technologies. The company’s cloud-based platform, the Delair.ai platform, allows users to manage, process, view, analyze and collaborate around aerial data. Agriculture and forestry professionals use the Delair. ai platform for mapping and scouting, so they can visually analyze fields. The platform is also used to run field inventory to characterize the crops, monitor them, and ultimately drive their precision ag practices. One of the hallmarks of Delair’s products is they are 26

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platform agnostic, which is extremely beneficial for the company and its quest to add customers in the long run. “The reason why it’s important to be agnostic is to not limit our customer base,” Thomas Nicholls, chief marketing officer at Delair, tells Unmanned Systems, noting that the company’s customers cover the gamut — some use both the hardware and software, while others use one and not the other. Delair hasn’t completely moved to software, as it also offers the UX11 Ag drone, a mapping system designed specifically for agriculture. The plant-mapping drone is capable of onboard data processing and has wireless and 3G/4G communications. Equipped with a PPK-as-you-go (post-processed kinematic) feature, the UAS can precisely overlay maps for temporal analysis and help plan routes for ground-based agricultural machines. Capable of flying up to 59 minutes, the UAS can help count the number of plants a user has and determine which are healthy.


Farming professionals use PrecisionHawk’s PrecisionAnalytics’ Agriculture software during their respective operations. Photo: PrecisionHawk

Agnostic technology Having agnostic software and hardware allows Delair to form partnerships with a variety of entities, such as the company’s recently announced partnership with Minneapolis, Minnesotabased Geosys, a company founded by agronomists which specializes in satellite and weather data analytics for agriculture. The partnership will seek to “expand the options for gathering and analyzing data for enhanced crop inputs placement, seed production and crop monitoring practices,” the companies say. The partnership will deliver a single analytics platform that integrates drone and satellite data — focusing on the data, not the systems that got it. Initially, Delair and Geosys will offer an integrated platform for agriculture professionals with variable rate fertilization management. France will be the first market to have access to this enhanced service through the Cerelia platform, a precision agriculture analysis system that Geosys offers in France to more than 40 co-ops and agriculture service providers. The new partnership will also use Delair’s UX11 agriculture drone. “Today’s precision agriculture practices require comprehensive and accurate data from which meaningful insights can be derived,” says Matthieu Hyrien, vice president of business development at Geosys. “The combination of Delair’s flexible and high-performance visual intelligence platform with our powerful analysis and decision support tools can have a significant impact on the performance and profitability of agriculture operations.” Delair and Geosys are interested in extending their offering to other applications such as weed control, real-time field behavior and performance analysis, and identification of yield improvement opportunities. The integration of the Delair.ai platform with Geosys will allow the addition of satellite and weather data to bring “enhanced knowledge and analytical capabilities” throughout the entire crop cycle. The companies say their partnership will also benefit from the upcoming UrtheDaily Constellation, a planned global coverage

Every year, sensors are getting better, processing power is getting better, drones are staying in air longer, there is better situational awareness, and the technology is getting safer. — Kevin Lang

constellation that seeks to acquire “high-quality, multispectral imagery” at five meters ground sampling density, taken at the same time, every day, every field. The combination of these high-precision data sources will allow users to make faster, smarter decisions about their operation. The combined offering can also help in accurate seed production monitoring and forecasting, which lowers logistics costs and markets risks. With the data and decision support tools available, users can quickly evaluate which fields need their attention, where they should focus their scouting efforts and identify the probable causes of crop growth anomalies. “You can fly a drone when you want to; that agility and flexibility is a very good thing,” Nicholls says. “You can also fly with a wide range of sensors, which is very handy.” NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2019 | UNMANNED SYSTEMS

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Important decisions Like Nicholls, Kevin Lang, general manager of agriculture at Raleigh, North Carolina-based PrecisionHawk, believes that drones offer a variety of benefits to the farming industry. “Drones aren’t going to solve every issue, but they’re going to play an important part during the season to make important decisions,” Lang tells Unmanned Systems. “Every year, sensors are getting better, processing power is getting better, drones are staying in air longer, there is better situational awareness, and the technology is getting safer.” PrecisionHawk’s primary agriculture software is PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture, a web-based portal designed specifically for agriculture users. The portal processes aerial imagery into 2-D maps and 3-D elevation models, and features a continuously expanding library of on-demand analysis tools, while making it easy to share data. The portal automatically generates georeferenced

orthomosaics from data collected using drone-compatible sensors, including visual, multispectral and thermal systems made by the likes of DJI, Parrot Sequoia, MicaSense Red Edge M/MX, and MicaSense Altum. The portal provides users with access to a continually expanding library of professional, ondemand farming analysis tools to gain the critical insights that they want, when they need them. According to PrecisionHawk, its PrecisionAnalytics Agriculture is based on millions of acres of crop data and a decade of agriculture analytics experience. Harnessing the power of AI for farming professionals to use, the portal allows growers to make more precise and effective crop management decisions, maximizing yield potential and profitability; crop consultants to share with customers quantifiable measures of crop health data, via intuitive visualizations, in a single click; crop insurers to capture an exact and objective accounting of crop losses to refine their claims payouts; and agrochemical researchers and seed scientists to capture whole fields (instead of sampling) and segment the data plot-by-plot. Using PrecisionHawk’s intuitive reporting system, users can conduct several important tasks before planting, as well as during the growing season, the company says. Before planting, users can use the portal to assess water conditions in fields, determine areas that need drainage management, and assess soil health. During growing season, users can utilize the portal to, among many things, detect plant stress in mid-to-late growth stages, identify resistant weeds or invasive species, and rapidly assess storm damage to settle claims quickly and replant. Obviously, drones and their accompanying software won’t solve every single issue that farmers experience, but they could help make the problem-solving process easier, and ultimately, more efficient.

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FEATURE

NORTH DAKOTA WIND FARM LEVERAGES OBSTRUCTION LIGHTING CONTROL RADAR TO

OPERATE DRONES By Edward Lundquist

Terma’s Obstruction Light Control vastly reduces light pollution and increases public acceptance of wind farms. Photo: Terma

North Dakota appropriately celebrated American Wind Week 2019 at a wind farm, Xcel Energy’s soon-to-open Foxtail Wind Farm in Dickey County. But Foxtail represents more than a typical wind farm — it has become a convergence of technologies that will have far-reaching implications for the state and beyond. Foxtail is Xcel’s third wind farm in North Dakota. Its 75 turbines will generate 150 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 80,000 homes. And with support from the state, it is pioneering the installation of obstruction lighting control radar to turn off the aircraft warning lights on the turbines unless an aircraft is approaching. Foxtail will leverage this technology by integrating a first of its kind, fully autonomous solution for turbine inspection, wildlife assessment, security, and perimeter checks. North Dakota’s wind industry continues to grow, said Lt. 30

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Gov. Brent Sanford, speaking at the Xcel event in Kulm. “We now boast 38 wind farms with a capacity of over 32 hundred megawatts — tenth in the nation for installed capacity,” he said. “Per capita, we are the number one state for wind-generated power. North Dakota may represent only two-tenths of one percent of the nation’s population, but as of May of 2019, we are now ranked ninth in the nation for total megawatts generated by wind.” Sanford, who also chairs the Northern Plains UAS Authority, recognized the state for its innovation in embracing new technologies and concepts, and its collaboration with federal and state agencies, academia and industry. Foxtail is a prime example, as Xcel has partnered with the Northern Plains UAS Test Site to demonstrate using drones to inspect transmission lines beyond visual line of sight, and with a goal to create a statewide network for safely operating drones.


“During my time with the commission over the last six years, we’ve done a lot of wind projects, and one of the big impacts that is a consistent concern for citizens is the annoyance of the blinking red lights,” she says. Balancing the community’s desire for dark skies at night with Federal Aviation Administration safety requirements, Xcel Energy has installed Terma North America’s Obstruction Lighting Control (OLC) system, which uses the SCANTER 5202 radar to enable and disable the wind farm’s obstruction lighting when an aircraft is within three kilometers (1.86 miles) of a wind turbine. The SCANTER 5202 can be used with either a 12-foot compact antenna for a 23-mile diameter circle of coverage, or an 18-foot high-gain antenna for a 32-mile diameter circle of coverage, to satisfy the FAA’s Aircraft Detection Lighting System (ADLS) requirements. Fedorchak said Foxtail is the first facility where the ALDS system will be up and running from day one of operations. “It’s a great way to mitigate one of the complaints about wind energy, and make it more tolerable to all people living around it, without negatively impacting the efficiency of the project at all,” she says. According to North Dakota Commissioner of Commerce Michelle Kommer, the state is progressive and aggressive in addressing energy development and autonomous unmanned aircraft systems. She said the state’s Renewable Energy Program provided a $500,000 grant to assist North Dakota software company Airtonomy in developing a framework for secure, remote, autonomous, multi-drone operations. Additionally, Kommer said, the state invested nearly $300,000 to work with the University of North Dakota’s Research Institute for Autonomous Systems (RIAS) and the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, to pursue a waiver that will allow Airtonomy to create a foundation in the renewable energy sector which, in the future, will assist in securing autonomous multi-drone and beyond vision line-of-sight operations. “This project also taps our Innovate ND program, which provides up to $24,000 in funding for new and innovative approaches to doing business,” she said.

Commissioner Michelle Kommer from the North Dakota Department of Commerce. Photo: Xcel Energy

North Dakota Lt. Governor Brent Sanford at Foxtail Wind. Photo: Xcel Energy

The available radar technology to turn on and off the red aircraft warning lights can also be ‘eyes’ for a UAS pilot on the ground and will keep the drones in their housing unit if it detects manned airplanes nearby. - Nicholas T. Flom

Dim the lights It turns out Foxtail is an ideal place to test the concept of radar control of lighting. North Dakota Public Service Commissioner Julie Fedorchak said her organization, which issues permits for the power generation facilities like wind farms, transmission lines, and gas plants and refineries, has a goal of permitting these infrastructure projects with minimal impact to the environment and community. NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2019 | UNMANNED SYSTEMS

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Airtonomy CEO Josh Riedy (center) visits with University of North Dakota Ph.D. students Shudipto Sekhar Roy (right) and Ramtin Kardan with the UND Research Institute for Autonomous Systems at at Xcel’s Foxtail Wind Farm. Photo: Patrick C. Miller/ UND Today/ University of North Dakota

Drones like it too Nicholas T. Flom, executive director for the Northern Plains UAS Test Site, said using drones to inspect wind turbines is fairly straightforward, but they want to make that part of the operation more convenient and efficient. For example, he says Xcel has stepped up and offered to test the concept of having one person operating multiple drones simultaneously at Foxtail. “But then we learned about the radar they are using for obstruction lighting control, which has nothing to do with the drones. This is where the innovative part starts to come into play. Can we leverage this new technology for drone operations? The answer is ‘yes.’ So now we are pursuing ways we can take advantage of the radar technology that’s turning on and off lights to allow us to safely operate drones — multiple drones — autonomously beyond the line of sight of the pilot. And here at the test site, we are working with the FAA to get that kind of approval, because it doesn’t exist yet.” Flom says the state is investing $28 million to put infrastructure in place to enable these UAS operations. “We’ll start with the existing FAA radars at the airports, such as the ones at Fargo and Grand Forks that go out 60 miles. Just those two radars alone cover a lot of area from South Dakota state line to the Canadian border — there are some gaps, but that’s what we’re looking at. We may need to put a smaller radar in to fill in some of those gaps. And if we can tie the Terma radar here at Foxtail, or at other wind farms, into that network, we have many new possibilities.”

Radar-enabled innovation Flom said the available radar technology to turn red aircraft warning lights on and off can also be “eyes” for a UAS pilot on the ground and will keep the drones in their housing unit if it detects manned airplanes nearby. There are many other possibilities. “We can launch drones in safe airspace to conduct agricultural surveys or conduct very targeted spraying for weed control instead of a manned crop duster spraying an entire field, thanks to the radar. “When we started this entire project a year ago, we were trying to make turbine inspections more efficient,” said Flom. “We didn’t know that there would be all these additional possibilities coming out of it.” Josh Riedy, CEO of Airtonomy, is developing his system with safety and efficiency at the forefront. Riedy said the Foxtail drones will be dispersed throughout a site using containerized housing units. “When we launch at Foxtail, we’ll be testing a single drone covering a one-and-a-half by one-and-a-half-mile block of 32

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land. Each installation has an environmental monitoring kit to check wind speed, temperature, precipitation, and whether its day or night — conditions vital for acceptable flying conditions. “We have a launch sequence that verifies clear air space, and then checks with the Terma radar to ensure the area is devoid of manned aviation. When the system gives the green light, it opens the respective housing unit, and the drones will go about doing their work, such as turbine inspection, wildlife assessments, security, or perimeter checks. When the assignments are complete, or when their battery limit is reached, the drones will come back and recharge, and be tasked again.”

For the birds … and bats North Dakota is in the middle of one of the world’s largest bird migration fly-ways. Dr. Susan Ellis-Felege of University of North Dakota has studied impacts of energy development on wildlife, something to which the state pays close attention. The ALDS radar at Foxtail could help. “There are definitely applications for tracking more than just aircraft,” Felege said. “The wind farms must be in compliance with the Bald and Golden Eagle Act. You can have a person sitting there in a tower, day in and day out, all day long looking for these eagles and when one is seen, they can say, ‘OK, we need to shut something off.’ But a radar might provide an accurate and efficient way of identifying birds and bats so that deterrents can be used to keep them from getting too close to wind turbines. “... We’ve already got this tool onsite to do one thing — the radar to control the obstruction lighting. And we’re going to test it to show that it can track drones or determine if it’s safe to fly. So, while we’re at it, let’s see if it can track birds,” Felege said. Riedy said the Terma radar and Airtonomy software solution can be applied at wind farms everywhere. Foxtail isn’t operational yet, but it has already become the confluence of a number of new technologies that will have a dramatic and lasting synergistic effect on the wind industry. Not the least of which will be the reduced annoyance of perpetually blinking red lights. Thanks to the Terma radar, those lights will come on only when they’re really needed, which is to alert an aircraft in the area that there’s a wind farm here, Fedorchak said. “Otherwise, the night sky will be dark, and the wind farm will be invisible to people — the night skies will be illuminated by the stars alone.” The general public may never know the significance of this, but that’s the point.


COVER STORY

AERIAL SPRAYING WITH DRONES GAINS TRACTION, SLOWLY By Nick Adde

Only a few years ago, Yamaha’s RMAX helicopter arguably represented the state of the art when it came to the agricultural use of unmanned aircraft. Depending on the situation, RMAX would disperse an appropriate payload over a field more efficiently and quickly than could farmworkers by hand. Furthermore, RMAX’s sensors could identify where product was needed and where it was not. The problem then, particularly in the United States, was convincing federal and state regulators that the use of RMAX and other aircraft of its ilk was not only practical, but safer for humans and the environment alike and considerably more cost-effective than conventional ways of doing the job. The same UAS that could not pass muster in America already had been in use for years in Japan and other countries. Today, the institutional resistance to UAS flying over farmlands has abated somewhat but is not entirely gone. Meanwhile, the technology has advanced to the point where payloads are bigger, ranges extended, and the sensor packages are ever more sophisticated. In fact, Yamaha is phasing out RMAX and its predecessor, Fazer, for the newer Fazer R. 34

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Yamaha has been flying its RMAX unmanned helicopter in Napa Valley, California, for years. Photo: Yamaha Motor Corp.

Though the barriers of bureaucratic resistance are coming down at a slow rate, companies are moving forward whenever and wherever they can. RMAX and Fazer are regularly operating over California winegrape orchards. Rantizo Inc., a small Iowa City, Iowa, startup, is flying in six Midwest states and soon plans to expand to the two coasts. Tel Aviv-based Adama Agricultural Solutions Ltd. is joining with Tactical Robotics to develop and deploy the Ag-Cormorant UAS, which would be capable of carrying payloads of more than half a ton. And In North Carolina, state transportation and environmental-services officials have approved experimental UAS flights to eradicate invasive plants near the historic Bodie Island Lighthouse on the Outer Banks.

Spray California “We’ve been authorized to spray in California for three years now,” says Yamaha spokesman Brad Anderson. Still, Anderson says, the company is saddled with some requirements that make little practical


sense. For instance, California’s personal protective equipment rules state that all aircraft operators must wear protective gear. Operators are generally situated far away from the dispensing chemicals. The company will continue to work with the state to come up with a more realistic approach to personal safety, he says. Yamaha continues to lease its UAS to customers, rather than sell them outright. With RMAX and Fazer out of production, Fazer R would provide greater efficiency, Anderson says. “With payload, you can never carry enough. Whatever you show [customers], they’re going to want more,” Anderson says. At this point, Yamaha’s aircraft are applying fungicide for nine customers on wine grapes at Napa Valley sites, to prevent powdery mildew. Other flights treat rice fields with herbicide, to kill weeds. Anderson describes California’s present approach to agriculture-related UAS flights as a “Band-Aid solution.” It is better than nothing, he says, and certainly more than the responses Yamaha gets when it tries to cross California’s border. “People in other states give me a blank stare. They’re trying to understand where drones fit in, from the farmers’ perspective,” he says. “We’ve always said that they’re just one tool for the farmers’ disposal, [which] could be a good fit in the right situation.” To crack the market out of California, Yamaha plans to lease aircraft to operators in other states. Meanwhile, the company is working with the Federal Aviation Administration to certify Fazer R. In a new development, California recently amended regulations to include an unmanned category for aerial applications. The change means that anyone who applies to take the state test to become an aerial applicator of agricultural treatments, they can specify whether they are doing so for manned or unmanned aircraft. “This is a great development,” Anderson says. “Previously, any UAS operations were forced to follow all unmanned rules, despite having exemptions from the FAA.”

Branching out While Yamaha is focused primarily in California, Michael Ott of Rantizo hails his company’s status as the first to operate in multiple states. Besides Iowa, Rantizo has deployed its fleet of DJI AGRAS drones into Nebraska, Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and Missouri. Farmers and agricultural firms in the company’s service area are impressed, Ott says, with the capability of spraying 14 acres per hour. The DJI drones are rigged with an upgraded spraying system and are able to spray 20-foot swaths at a pass. Imagery equipment provides users with a precise understanding of problems in fields, Ott says. “We can apply where things are needed — liquid insecticides, fungicides and herbicides, and solid cover-crop seed, granular fertilizers, and pollen-beneficial insects,” Ott says. He believes Rantizo is addressing a critical problem beleaguering the agriculture industry — the shortage of labor. “There are not enough people to work, and we need more

A drone flies near the Bodie Island Lighthouse in North Carolina to help fight invasive pharagmites. Photo: North Carolina Department of Transportation

food,” Ott says. “We’re addressing ways to produce food with as little labor as possible.” UAS flights require one operator to spread the payloads, Ott says, while the traditional method calls for four persons to do the job while walking through the fields. He would like to fully automate the process, so that no operator is needed at all. “We’re working on an autonomous loading system, and to develop ways to use swarms — multiple drones up in the air at once, flying and applying,” Ott says. Like others in the industry, Rantizo has to deal with patchwork regulations that are impractical and irrelevant in terms of drone flight. One state had required drone sprayers to adhere to rules intended for piloted aircraft, to include a mandate that each drone carry a seatbelt and operator’s manual on board. Swarming remains an issue. While the FAA understandably has regulations that significantly limit swarms of aircraft flying in proximity, the same rules apply to drones, Ott says. It also makes little sense to require drone pilots to have 100 to 500 hours’ training, as some states mandate. His company can train operators to fly its drones safely within 10 to 20 hours, depending upon the level of knowledge a student pilot has at the onset of instruction. “The FAA didn’t conceive of one pilot flying more than one aircraft all at once, but we can easily fly drones” that way, Ott says. “If you’re flying a plane, you can hurt yourself or property. It’s smart to have those regulations. But with a smaller drone, you have to work hard to crash it and ignore a bunch of things.” Fostering automation and swarm flights would only increase efficiency and safety, Ott says. “A 120-foot boom on the back of a tractor works well, but you’ve got all that waste. You can see soil compaction caused by it, and lower yields on that row. Every time you go through a field with a big rig like that, you cause some destruction,” Ott says. Automated drone fights, by contrast, can distribute NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2019 | UNMANNED SYSTEMS

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Pharagmites, a type of non-native marsh grass, is a problem on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, which is being met with herbicide-carrying drones. Photo: North Carolina Department of Transportation

payloads within one meter when equipped with standard gear. Upgrade the distribution package, and the accuracy increases to within three centimeters of the intended target, Ott says.

Cormorant goes ag As Israel-based ADAMA teams with Tactical Robotics to configure the agricultural version of the Cormorant drone, the companies promise a final product that can carry an 1,100-pound payload, which increases to nearly 1,700 pounds when including fuel. The company boasts a safe product, with vertical-takeoff capability in a package that can be transported in the cargo bay of a pickup truck. Its unique design “eliminates the risk of pilot injuries and exposed rotor accidents,” and can fly any time day or night, according to a company press release. “We believe the Ag-Cormorant represents a new and improved method for aerial application,” says ADAMA’s Dani Harari in the statement. “We aim to continue providing these and other valuable services and products to enable farmers to optimize yields and help them grow.”

Native species While drone-sprayer companies bemoan the litany of bureaucratic hindrances governments place upon them, North Carolina is taking a step in the other direction that the industry likely would find refreshing. Pharagmites, a type of non-native marsh grass, was pushing out native plants around the Bodie Island Lighthouse on the state’s Outer Banks. The state transportation department’s Division of Aviation and its Environmental Analysis unit determined that drones carrying herbicides would do a much better job of eradicating the invasive plants than conventional airplanes or helicopters. The plan proved successful. The drones got the job done while spraying less herbicides, because they operated lower to the ground and were less affected by winds. State officials could monitor the progress with onboard cameras. “The drone had minimal impact on the surrounding area. It was easier to avoid harming native species, better targeted, and quick to mobilize — great for somewhere with unpredictable weather like on the Outer Banks,” says Morgan Weatherford, who led the state government team on the project. “We plan to continue and expand our drone program in the future.” NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2019 | UNMANNED SYSTEMS

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ROBONATION MARKS 10 YEARS WITH STEM PUSH,

NEW ROBOTIC CHALLENGES By Daryl Davidson

RoboNation — formerly the AUVSI Foundation — celebrated its 10-year anniversary with a new name. The name was changed to RoboNation to be more appealing to the whole RoboNation community, including the primary audience, students and teachers. Whereas AUVSI deals in the professional, career side of the robotics and unmanned systems world, RoboNation is casting a wide net to engage students in robotic activities from as early as elementary school. RoboNation programs, from entry level to events, require students to design and deploy fully autonomous systems. By then, these students are the recruiting target of the highest profile technology firms in the world. Unmanned systems aren’t bound by gravity and water, and neither are RoboNation robotic programs, which operate in every domain: air, land and sea.

2019 competition recap RoboNation inherited student competitions that used to occur under AUVSI and has since added a wide range of new things in order to give students a broader mix of opportunities. Here’s a recap of RoboNation programs and how they went down this year:

SeaPerch Challenge On June 1-2 at the University of Maryland, RoboNation’s SeaPerch program held the 9th annual SeaPerch Challenge where 199 teams, comprised of middle and high school students, advanced from 90 regional competitions across the U.S. and beyond to put their SeaPerch remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) through a series of underwater challenges — including a rescue and recovery mission inspired by the real-life events of the 2018 rescue mission of students from a cave in Thailand. The overall winner was Harrington Middle School of New Jersey. 38

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The Maritime RobotX Competition happens every other year. All photos: RoboNation

Intelligent Ground Vehicle Competition (IGVC) IGVC challenges student teams to build and operate autonomous robotic vehicles on an outdoor course with defined lanes, GPS waypoints and obstacles. The four-day competition was held in early June at Oakland University outside of Detroit. The elements of the IGVC 2019 were: The Auto-Nav Challenge, the Design Competition, the Inter-Operability Profile Challenge and the Self-Drive Challenge. Manipal Institute of Technology, from Karnataka, India, took home the Grand Award.

Student Unmanned Vehicle System (SUAS) The SUAS Competition is designed to foster interest in unmanned aircraft systems, stimulate interest in UAS technologies and careers, and to engage students in a challenging UAS mission. The competition requires students to design, integrate, report on, and demonstrate a UAS capable of autonomous flight and navigation, remote sensing via onboard payload sensors, and execution of a specific set of tasks. In 2019, a total of 75 teams competed and $50,250 of prize money was awarded. This year’s event, held at Webster Field in Patuxent River, Maryland, included an autonomous ground vehicle element and real-time planning. Montreal’s École de Technologie Supérieure took the top prize.


RoboBoat The 13 competing teams built robotic boats using just a set of rules and technical requirements and any tools and resources they could resource. These self-operating boats mimic tasks that are being developed for coastal surveillance, port security and other types of oceanographic operations. The competition teaches participants not just about the technology of robotics but also management, budgeting and operations skills. Half of the teams competing were new to RoboBoat this year. The reigning champions from 2018 RoboBoat, Institut Teknologi Sepuluh Nopember (ITSN) from Indonesia, proved that building on lessons learned and continuing to make improvements pays off, as they took the top prize. This year’s event marked the 12th competition and third at Reed Canal Park in South Daytona, Florida.

International Aerial Robotics Competition (IARC) 2019 marked the second year of Mission 8 of the IARC. The focus was on demonstrating technologies involved with Man-Unmanned Machine-Teaming (MUMT). In particular, a single human was to communicate navigation commands by either gesture or vocal commands to a team of up to four fully autonomous aerial robots. Robots in the IGVC ground competition must traverse an outdoor course.

One way RoboNation is celebrating its 10th birthday is by launching a new website. Visit www.robonation.org to see all the very cool things going on in the RoboNation world.

Mission 8 was successfully completed in under eight minutes by three teams. By completing the mission in the least time, Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics won the grand prize of $10,000.

RoboSub RoboSub had a record number of teams for its 22nd annual event. Fifty-three teams from 13 countries gathered in San Diego to compete, collaborate and exchange ideas. RoboSub requires that students from universities (and some high schools) build and deploy a fully autonomous underwater vehicle that has to complete a series of tasks, including navigation, vision-based actions, target manipulation and acoustic-based actions. One of the highlights this year was a videoconference with underwater archaeologist Dr. Robert Ballard, who was at sea in the South Pacific on a research mission. His most fundamental message for the students was to “embrace failure,” as it will be part of their growth and advancement. China’s Harbin Engineering University was the top winner.

Virtual RobotX Competition – NEW The Maritime RobotX Challenge, aka RobotX, is the newest of the RoboNation family of programs. It’s also the largest and most complex, which is why RobotX occurs every two years. In the off year, which happens to be 2019, RobotX is launching the inaugural “Virtual RobotX” competition (VRX). To date, 14 teams have signed up for the VRX competition and the results will be announced at the RobotX Interactive Forum in Singapore in December. For the VRX competition, student teams operate their vehicle in a Gazebo-based simulation environment built by Open Robotics and Naval Postgraduate School. The simulation environment is expected to assist team’s ability to improve vehicle performance in the next, live RobotX Challenge which will take place in Hawaii in December 2020. NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2019 | UNMANNED SYSTEMS

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Empowering students Over the past decade, more and more students are dabbling in STEM. Getting kids excited about robotics is an important step, but to revolutionize this industry, we can’t stop there. Students crave opportunities to apply their STEM education to real-world problems and explore technology in ways that relate to their own lives and communities. That’s where RoboNation and other like-minded groups come into play, by providing a pathway of hands-on educational experiences that empower students to use technology to find innovative solutions to global challenges. Students grow their love for robotics with each RoboNation competition. They’re also building real-world skills they’ll need in the workforce and in life. Students work as a team and take on a slew of other real-world challenges. They investigate intricate details of theory (or develop entirely new ones), harness their technical communication skills and build valuable leadership skills. Somewhere on that path the students learn self-reliance, innovation and risk-taking as they exercise their growing STEM skills. If what we just mentioned sound like valuable traits for a career in robotics, it’s because they are. The good news is, this is a passionate community. We keep that momentum strong every time we work alongside the upcoming generation. Together, we can make essential advancements in marine conservation, improved crop yields and life-saving measures and so much more. We always need help. If you’d like to be part of this great dynamic, you can. For the students to keep learning, RoboNation needs volunteers to mentor; sponsors to support; and partners to teach. Visit www.robonation.org to learn more.

Competitors in the RoboBoat competition build selfoperating boats.

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FAR OUT

ROBOTICS OFFER HOPE FOR ELDERLY, PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES By Brian Sprowl Four years after severing his spinal chord and being left paralyzed from the shoulders down after a 40 foot fall from a balcony, a French man has walked again thanks to a brain-controlled exoskeleton. In what scientists describe as a “breakthrough providing hope to tetraplegics seeking to regain movement,” the man used a robot device to walk after months of training and harnessing his brain signals to control a computer-simulated avatar to perform basic movements. While the device is years away from being publicly available, doctors who conducted the trial believe that the robot has “the potential to improve patients’ quality of life and autonomy.” The paralyzed man, identified as Thibault, says that the technology has given him a new lease of life. “When you’re in my position, when you can’t do anything with your body... I wanted to do something with my brain,” Thibault tells Agence France-Presse. Having to “relearn” natural movements from scratch, Thibault spent months training on a video-game avatar system to acquire the necessary skills to operate the exoskeleton. “I can’t go home tomorrow in my exoskeleton, but I’ve got to a point where I can walk. I walk when I want and I stop when I want,” Thibault says. To start, a team of experts from the Hospital of Grenoble Alpes, biomedical firm Cinatech and the CEA research center implanted two recording devices on either side of Thibault’s head, between the brain and the skin. The devices read Thibault’s sensorimotor cortex, which is the area that controls motor function. Each decoder transmits the brain signals, which are then translated by an algorithm into the movements the patient thought about. This system is what sends the physical commands that are executed by the exoskeleton. Using the avatar and video game, Thibault thought about performing basic physical tasks such as walking and reaching out to touch objects. The combination of the avatar, the video game and the exoskeleton allowed Thibault to cover the length of one and a half soccer pitches over the course of many sessions.

Robotic cane Another technological innovation that is offering hope to those with impaired mobility, as well as the elderly, is the CANINE light-touch robotic cane. A team of researchers at Columbia Engineering has demonstrated the benefit of using an autonomous robot that “walks” alongside a person to provide light-touch support, similar to how one might maintain their balance while walking by lightly touching a companion’s arm or sleeve.

A screengrab from a video of a French man using a robot device to walk for the first time since being left paralyzed from the shoulders down following a 40 foot fall from a balcony. Photo source: YouTube

“We have developed a robotic cane attached to a mobile robot that automatically tracks a walking person and moves alongside,” says the leader of the team of researchers, Sunil Agrawal, a professor of mechanical engineering and of rehabilitation and regenerative medicine at Columbia Engineering. CANINE serves as a cane-like mobile assistant, helping improve an individual’s self-awareness in space while walking, resulting in an improvement in stability and balance. “This strategy has potential applications for a variety of conditions, especially individuals with gait disorders,” says Joel Stein, Simon Baruch Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and chair of the department of rehabilitation and regenerative medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center, who co-authored the study with Agrawal. To test the device, 12 healthy young people were fitted with virtual reality glasses that created a visual environment that shakes around the user — both side-to-side and forwardbackward — to unbalance their walking gait. Each subject walked 10 laps on the instrumented mat, both with and without the robotic cane, in conditions that tested walking with these visual perturbations. “The next phase in our research will be to test this device on elderly individuals and those with balance and gait deficits to study how the robotic cane can improve their gait,” says Agrawal, who also directs the Robotics and Rehabilitation (ROAR) Laboratory. NOVEMBER-DECEMBER 2019 | UNMANNED SYSTEMS

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CHAPTER NEWS Mountain West

Silicon Valley

The Utah 2nd Annual UAS Summit was held in Ogden Utah on Friday, Sept. 27. Utah’s Deseret UAS and the City of Ogden hosted the event, which was also sponsored by the AUVSI Mountain West Chapter as our fall chapter meeting. Former FAA Administrator Michael Huerta gave the keynote address, highlighting industry milestones, challenges, and what the future might hold. More 100 people attended the event, which included local officials, representatives from Rio Tinto mining, Idaho National Labs, Army Dugway Proving Grounds, law enforcement, first responders, Utah State University, the University of Utah, and numerous members of the Utah drone economy. FLYMOTION, ROAVCopter, Fortem Technologies, the US Army Rapid Integration Acceptance Center, Box Elder Emergency Response, and AggieAir had interactive exhibits at the event.

State Sen. David Buxton, left, and former FAA chief Michael Huerta, center, at the event, with an employee of ROAVCopter. Photos: Mountain West Chapter

Date: Sunday, Nov. 3, 2019 Time: 1pm to 5pm Location: 7555 Jones Rd, Fairburn, GA 30213 Backup Weather Date: Nov. 9, 2019

The Silicon Valley Chapter’s year began with the All About Autonomy Symposium, featuring a dream team Remote ID panel including Amazon, Intel, Project Wing and BloxDB. The symposium highlight was the donation by Anil Nanduri of two Intel drones to the Hiller Aviation Museum, facilitated by the Silicon Valley Chapter. “It’s a proud moment for the chapter to be able to facilitate this donation,” said Greg Deeds, Silicon Valley Chapter president. The event, covered by CNET, was another great SVC success. In addition to collaboration on several NASA related topics and events earlier this year, the Silicon Valley Chapter is looking forward to an active event schedule through the end of the year. In October, the Silicon Valley Chapter supported Velodyne Lidar’s World Safety Summit, followed by a midmonth liability workshop. In November, the second annual Urban Air Mobility Symposium will feature leaders in UAM including NASA keynotes and updates. Visit UTM3.com for details on the event.

Anil Nanduri, right, donated two Intel drones to the Hiller Aviation Museum. The donation was facilitated by the Silicon Valley Chapter; President Gred Deeds is at left. Photo: Silicon Valley Chapter.

Fun Fly! RSVP: Text Name and email to 346-704-0112 What to Bring:

Your Drone Fully Charged Batteries A Chair Laughs and Smiles Business Cards

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AUVSI's Unmanned Systems magazine — Nov.-Dec. 2019