Unmanned systems are often used to augment the ability of humans to perform challenging tasks. While the value of
individual unmanned vehicles has been proven for a variety of tasks, it is less understood how multiple unmanned
systems should be used together to accomplish larger missions such as site security. The purpose of this paper is to
discuss efforts by researchers at the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) to explore the utility and practicality of operating
multiple unmanned systems for a site security mission. This paper reviews the technology developed for a multi-agent
mission and summarizes the lessons-learned from a technology demonstration.
The Department of Energy's Idaho National Laboratory (INL) has been researching autonomous unmanned
vehicle systems for over fifteen years. Areas of research have included unmanned ground and aerial vehicles used for
hazardous and remote operations as well as teamed together for advanced payloads and mission execution. Areas of
application include aerial particulate sampling, cooperative remote radiological sampling, and persistent surveillance
including real-time mosaic and geo-referenced imagery in addition to high-resolution still imagery. Both fixed-wing and
rotary airframes are used possessing capabilities spanning remote control to fully autonomous operation. Patented INL-developed
auto steering technology is taken advantage of to provide autonomous parallel path swathing with either
manned or unmanned ground vehicles. Aerial look-ahead imagery is utilized to provide a common operating picture for
the ground and air vehicles during cooperative missions. This paper will discuss the various robotic vehicles, including
sensor integration, used to achieve these missions and anticipated cost and labor savings.
The Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL), through collaboration with INSAT Co., has developed a low cost robotic auto-steering system for parallel contour swathing. The capability to perform parallel contour swathing while minimizing “skip” and “overlap” is a necessity for cost-effective crop management within precision agriculture. Current methods for performing parallel contour swathing consist of using a Differential Global Position System (DGPS) coupled with a light bar system to prompt an operator where to steer. The complexity of operating heavy equipment, ensuring proper chemical mixture and application, and steering to a light bar indicator can be overwhelming to an operator. To simplify these tasks, an inexpensive robotic steering system has been developed and tested on several farming implements. This development leveraged research conducted by the INEEL and Utah
State University. The INEEL-INSAT Auto-Steering Software and Equipment Technology provides the following: 1) the ability to drive in a straight line within ± 2 feet while traveling at least 15 mph, 2) interfaces to a Real Time Kinematic (RTK) DGPS and sub-meter DGPS, 3) safety features such as Emergency-stop, steering wheel deactivation, computer watchdog deactivation, etc., and 4) a low-cost, field-ready system that is easily adapted to other systems.