Aggies and Aussies successfully fly unmanned air vehicles 8,000 miles away

December 10, 2015
| By: Jan McHarg

Students from Texas A&M University and The University of Sydney in Australia participated in the Aerial International Robotic Racing of Unmanned Systems (AIRUS) where teams were able to successfully demonstrate remote piloting of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) more than 8,000 miles away.

Pilots in Texas used a joystick to control a UAV (also known as a quadrotor or drone) in Australia, while at the same time pilots in Sydney controlled a UAV in Texas. A camera mounted on the front of the UAV captured video which was sent over the Internet to the pilot on the other side of the world.

The top pilots achieved an international landing. They controlled the sideways movement to land the UAV on a small target. Additionally, everyone in attendance at the event had the opportunity to pilot the UAV by controlling the spinning motion (yaw) of the UAV. They also gained an appreciation for the difficulty of dealing with the half-second delay through the international communications. Despite this delay, it is believed to be the lowest latency (delay) achieved for controlling an aircraft internationally.

Having successfully demonstrated the international piloting, AIRUS members have applied for a World Record for the Longest Distance Remote Piloting of a UAV, which is now pending assessment. At the Texas event there was also a showcase of UAVs, with students in attendance given the opportunity to test their skills in a race of small UAVs.

This first successful event is a stepping stone to the full plans for AIRUS — to involve many more universities around the world, each having local pilots controlling and racing UAVs at the different international locations.

The immediate plans for the coming year are to further develop the control systems to grant the international pilot a higher level of control and to build towards being able to race the UAV around an obstacle course on the other side of the world. This work also will lead to research on enhancing long distance remote control of aircraft and robotics at both universities.

The Texas A&M team is comprised of aerospace engineering students who are members of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. The competition was funded in part by the Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station’s Aerospace Technology Research and Operations Center (ASTRO) and Center for Autonomous Vehicles & Sensor Systems (CANVASS).



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