Intelligence: Giving UAVs Bigger Brains


January7, 2007: A problem with larger UAVs is that they use a satellite link to transmit their video images. This kind of information takes up a lot of bandwidth, and a few UAVs pumping out video can exhaust the satellite communications capability available. To overcome this problem, new software has been developed that screens the video and only transmits useful stuff. This is possible because most of the video transmitted is of terrain, with no people, or much of anything moving. It's been discovered that you can place sufficient computer hardware on a UAV, along with the proper software, to check the video as it is coming in, and only pass on, via the satellite, stuff that shows signs of having information the operators are looking for. A video buffer on the UAV keeps some of the "unneeded" video, in case the operators want to double check. Tests so far have shown that the system works, and, when used widely on existing Predator, Global Hawk, and other UAVs relying on satellite communications, will greatly reduce the amount of satellite capacity (bandwidth) needed. This will also enable more UAVs to be up there, using satellite links. Operators also appreciate the fact that they no longer have to spend so much time staring at nothing. This reduces operator fatigue, and reduces the number of operators needed.


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