DARPA Looking to Develop Mobile Devices to Command UAVs

In September 2011, researchers from Boeing Co. and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology reported they had created a prototype iPhone application that could successfully control a miniature unmanned aircraft vehicle in flight.

On Dec. 5, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency announced it is looking for developers to create mobile applications that would improve the functionality and capabilities of sensors critical to the effectiveness of UAV operations.  In short, “DARPA hopes to revolutionize sensors built on smartphone-like technology,” said Mark Rich, DARPA program manager.

“The integrated processing, storage, communications, navigation and orientation functions built into smartphone hardware and software can be leveraged to create far more powerful distributed sensor devices than we use today,” said Rich.

DARPA is conducting its outreach to the private sector for mobile solutions through its adaptable sensor system program. The agency said ADPT sensors won’t include an embedded user interface, like a touch screen, phone, camera or battery.

In use, the ADAPT sensor would be buried within the UAV or small robot and controlled remotely.

Another potential scenario for the ADAPT network includes perimeter security sensors hidden in an airfield, underground, or onboard a swarm of UAVs. The sensors would be able to provide an array of information accessible by the users.

However, this is a time consuming process and DARPA said it could anywhere between three and eight years to develop such devices.

As for the future, DARPA is aiming to implement these applications that run on a common hardware model, using a similar operating system.

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