A public-service Skynet?

Although drones are being deployed for a growing range of government operations, most are designed as independent observers, which makes it difficult for operators to quickly share the photos and videos they collect. In an emergency when every minute counts, operators must spend precious time to fly the vehicles back to base, download their photos or video before they can share any insights with others.

But researchers at the University of Texas at Arlington are working on a networked airborne computing platform that will let drones act as generic movable computing devices capable of communicating with each other and their controller. The platform would allow operators to download fused information from UAV networks and respond in real time, and it would also enable the drones to share information with each other for safer flight management.

The researchers are developing a hardware/software solution that integrates communication, control, computing and application development capabilities so that others can explore the use of networked UAVs.

"There are so many applications for UAVs that we are in an urgent need of a generic platform to facilitate testing new technology and building upon," said team leader Yan Wan, an associate professor in UTA's Department of Electrical Engineering. "Our system provides a timing solution with a modular design and features such as flexibility and extensibility to new developments."

The platform will be made available for the research community to enable the use of networked UAVs for civilian applications such as intelligent transportation, emergency response, infrastructure monitoring and agriculture.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA and MA from West Chester University and did Ph.D. work in English at the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at [email protected] or @sjaymiller.


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