Automating Unmanned and Manned Sensor Performance in Demanding Tactical Environments
Navy SBIR FY2013.1

Sol No.: Navy SBIR FY2013.1
Topic No.: N131-065
Topic Title: Automating Unmanned and Manned Sensor Performance in Demanding Tactical Environments
Proposal No.: N131-065-0223
Firm: Numerica Corporation
4850 Hahns Peak Drive
Suite 200
Loveland, Colorado 80538
Contact: Jason Adaska
Phone: (970) 461-2000
Web Site:
Abstract: The US Navy uses manned and unmanned airborne platforms for ISR missions in challenging littoral environments with non-segregated airspace, restricted operating regions, and sensor occlusions, while tracking and classifying potentially hundreds of targets. In this Phase I effort, we propose to design an integrated planning tool for airborne ISR platforms that can generate vehicle routes and sensor schedules in real time that satisfy vehicle dynamic constraints, airspace constraints, and sensor constraints, while serving the ISR mission objectives with varying degrees of specificity, and maximizing on-station time. The route planner conducts a tree search over a parameterized maneuver space so paths are kinematically feasible. The search samples neighborhoods in the space and obtains bounds on the various constraints and information objectives to determine promising regions to explore. This approach permits the use of complicated dynamic constraints such as sensing geometry, aircraft avoidance, and fuel consumption. The sensor scheduler selects particular tasks and start times, refining the route as necessary to comply with sensor resource constraints and achieve the given information goals. Multiple plans are presented to the operator if goals are in conflict or several different solutions exist, allowing the operator to apply mission-level judgment in directing the platform.
Benefits: The proposed airborne ISR planning system benefits the Navy by providing a real-time automated decision aid for the platform operator that optimizes sensor performance under a multitude of complex constraints, including vehicle dynamics, airspace restrictions, self-separation, and sensing geometry and phenomenology. Multiple, distinct planning solutions are presented to an operator when a single "best" solution can not be selected due to competing mission goals. The benefit to the Navy is a reduction of operator load, increasing effectiveness of the ISR platform and enabling decisions to be made at a higher level. The target platforms for the proposed technology are the MQ-8B Fire Scout and MH-60 Seahawk. However, other military and commercial airborne sensing applications (particularly those using UAS platforms) can benefit from this technology, including border patrol, search and rescue, monitoring of terrain and wildlife, and exploration for oil, gas, and mineral production.