The University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) is currently investigating techniques and technologies for the integration of a small unmanned aerial vehicle (SUAV) with small unmanned ground vehicles (SUGV). Each vehicle has its own set of unique capabilities, but the efficient integration of the two for a specific application requires modifying and integrating both systems. UAH has been flying and testing an autonomously-controlled small helicopter, called the Flying Bassett (Base Airborne Surveillance and Sensing for Emergency Threat Tracking) for over a year. Recently, integrated operations were performed with four SUGVs, the Matilda (Mesa Robotics, Huntsville, AL), the US Navy Vanguard, the UAH Rover, and the Penetrator (Mesa Robotics).
The program has progressed from 1) building an air and ground capability for video and infrared surveillance, 2) integration with ground vehicles in realistic scenarios, to 3) deployment and recovery of ground vehicles. The work was done with the cooperation of the US Army at Ft. Benning, GA and Redstone Arsenal, AL, the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Huntsville, AL, the US Naval Reserve in Knoxville, TN, and local emergency organizations. The results so far have shown that when the air and ground systems are employed together, their utility is greatly enhanced.