Strategic Elements’ subsidiary Stealth Technologies has signed an agreement to collaborate with US-based autonomous drone technology company, Planck AeroSystems. The companies will work to enable drones to autonomously launch and land from the stealth ground-based autonomous vehicle platform AxV.
Planck’s core enabling technology is vision-based precision landing on moving platforms without GPS. In sectors such as security, defence and resources drones can augment ground based cameras and sensors to provide additional range, multi-angle coverage and additional critical data, Stealth Technologies is developing an autonomous security vehicle (ASV) for perimeter security in sectors such as transport, energy, defence, government and utilities providing critical services. The Global Perimeter Security Market is forecast to be growing quickly at CAGR of 12 percent over the forecast period 2020-2026 reaching US$282.26 billion by 2025).
The Planck Autonomous Control Engine (ACE) system is an embedded software solution that runs onboard a variety of unmanned aircraft systems to enable autonomous launch, recovery, relative navigation, and mission planning from a moving vehicle. With centimetre-level accuracy for precision take-off and landing, a drone can launch and recover reliably from small spaces. The sensor-guided flight accounts for motion of a vessel or ground vehicle, including roll, pitch, heave, and wind effects. ACE is deployed in five US federal agencies, and with two allied nations. The ACE system has commanded thousands of successful UAS sorties both at sea and from vehicles, on aircraft from many different manufacturers. Planck is working with the United States Department of Defense’s Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office (CTTSO), the United States Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security on various aspects of its technology.
The precision landing system uses computer vision, artificial intelligence, and other onboard sensors, but does not require GPS or active communications. Existing unmanned aircraft systems use global positioning and are not capable of autonomous operation from moving vehicles. Planck’s intelligent navigation solutions enable new capabilities for surveillance, reconnaissance, real-time situational awareness, and force protection.
The Stealth and Planck collaboration will focus on enabling the ASV to launch and land drones. This ability would enable the long runtimes of the ASV to be combined with the high speed of drones. Drones could be launched from the ASV at any time whilst on patrol, effectively doubling the ASV’s surveillance coverage capabilities. Drones could also recharge once landed on the ASV and be relaunched. In addition the unique perspectives of both the ASV and its drone can be combined to give an expanded patrol and surveillance dataset, enable more powerful AI use cases for mapping, navigation, object and person recognition, object and person tracking and scene reasoning.
The parties will also assess the potential of integrating mobile tethered drones with the ASV. This will give additional deployment options for drone-equipped ASVs to work at facilities located near to controlled airspaces and at those that have safety requirements that would normally preclude drone operation (e.g. airports, energy facilities). Traditional ground tethered drones can only fly in a single location, however drones tethered from the ASV could be mobile and move with the ASV whilst airborne.