Wednesday, June 28, 2017

2017-06-28: Autonomy Incubator Successfully Tests New Multi-Vehicle Interface

Months of work paid off this week when the Autonomy Incubator's Kyle McQuarry took off and landed two UAVs at once with just a push of a button. Known as MUCS, for Multi UAV Control Station, Kyle's interface promises to simplify the Ai's multi-vehicle flight missions by consolidating the controls for all the vehicles onto one screen.

"Basically, I can select one or more UAVs and send the same command to them at the same time," Kyle said of his control station. "When you're trying to control multiple UAVs, it's easier this way– it's more time critical than anything." Of course, you can still control one at a time if you want to.

Think about it: flying multiple vehicles with individual controls would be a logistical nightmare. There would be no way to ensure all the vehicles got the exact same command at the same time, and managing all the controllers at once would take multiple people. With the MUCS at our disposal, now the Ai can expand its research missions to include as many vehicles as anyone could possibly want.

"[MUCS] allows you to scale up to n-number of vehicles because realistically, if you're flying one hundred vehicles, you won't have one hundred controllers," Kyle said.

The user interface for MUCS. Note the Ai logo tastefully watermarked
into the background. 
MUCS currently runs on a Windows-based laptop/tablet combo. This first iteration is a success, but it's by no means the final version of what Kyle envisions for the software.

"In general, we're still talking about what features we're going to add," he explained. "Right now, we're thinking about a map view, where you'll see the vehicles and maybe their trajectories." Other proposed features include using the tablet to set waypoints and draw no-fly zones right onto the map.

Because of its ease of use, MUCS has the potential to make multi-UAV missions accessible to people who might not have computer science or aviation experience. While Kyle designed the control station for Ai use, he adds that his creation's broader implications are "a nice side effect."

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