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Analysis of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles Concept of Operations in ITS Applications

Demoz Gebre-Egziabher, Zhiqiang Xing
March 2011
Report no. CTS 11-06


The work described in this report is about developing a framework for the design of concept of operations (CONOP), which use small uninhabited aerial systems (SUAS) to support of intelligent transportation system (ITS) application of highway and transportation infrastructure monitoring. In these envisioned applications, these vehicles will be used for tasks such as remote collection of traffic data or inspection of roads and bridges. As such, a risk that has to be managed for these applications is that of vehicle-infrastructure collision. Various solutions to ensure safe separation between the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and the object being inspected have been proposed. However, most, if not all, of these solutions rely on a multi-sensor approach, which combines digital maps of the infrastructure being inspected with an integrated GPS/Inertial navigator. While "turn key" solutions for such multi-sensor systems exist, the performance specifications provided by their manufactures does not provide sufficient information to allow precisely quantifying or bounding the collision risk. Furthermore, size, weight and power (or SWAP) constraints posed by these small aerial vehicles limits the use of redundant hardware and/or software as a risk mitigation strategy. The purpose of the work reported here was to develop a framework for the design of CONOPs, which take these SUAS limitations into account. The method outlined shows, in part, how these vehicle/infrastructure collision risks can be estimated or conservatively bounded.

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Sponsored by: ITS Institute (RITA)