The combination of small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and advanced sensor suites offer an attractive alternative to large manned intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) systems. By distributing a variety of sensors across multiple small UAV platforms to create a sensor suite, the severe size, weight, and power (SWaP) restrictions typical of a single small UAV platform can be relaxed. This provides a flexible system design supporting fixed-wing or vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) platforms of various sizes, which can easily be updated as new UAVs and sensors are developed.
TSC demonstrated that multi-platform sensor suites have several advantages over larger single-platform systems, and that they can support Air Force missions including wide area search (WAS) and command and control warfare (C2W).
Sensor suites employing combinations of low-cost sensors on multiple small unmanned aircraft have been analyzed using simulation methods. These were shown to outperform a single-platform, single-sensor system in terms of total system cost, area coverage rate, and probability of detection for the WAS mission.
Our research indicates that small UAV sensor suites equipped with custom COTS sensors may also have the potential to effectively support the detection and suppression of wireless emitters such as cell phones, long range cordless phones, and wireless local area networks, in support of the command and control warfare mission.
TSC developed a software tool for evaluating the performance of combinations of small UAV platforms and sensor suites. This tool can be used to develop mission CONOPS and to trade off UAV and sensor parameters and costs to maximize performance.