GCN Insider: Flight control

The Air Force's BQM-167A Subscale Target UAV includes GuideStar.

Athena Technologies Inc. of Warrenton, Va., hopes to commodify unmanned aerial vehicle operating systems in much the same way that Microsoft standardized the personal computer market with its one-size-fits-all OS.

The company just received a $9.1 million order from AAI Corp. of Hunt Valley, Md., to provide its GuideStar flight control systems for the Shadow, the Army's Tactical Unmanned Aircraft System. The Marines' long-endurance Scan Eagle and the Air Force's Goldeneye UAVs also use GuideStar.

Today, when a UAV designer gets to the flight control part of the blueprint, he puts in a custom-designed system. But according to David Vos, CEO and chief technical officer for Athena, there are enough of these 'complex nonlinear control problems' around (think UAVs and ground-dwelling robots) that in most cases, a general system could be used. And Athena is pitching its GuideStar line-of-flight control modules. With prices ranging from $10,000 to $70,000, GuideStar can cost about half as much as an in-house creation.

Vos developed the basic software as a student at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. The basic algorithms, subsequently elaborated through work at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, can handle such complex tasks as safely landing a damaged aircraft.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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