Every day, our nation’s service members stand ready to engage directly with danger. In open, rural areas, urban environments, and even inside buildings, some of the gravest threats they face are invisible.
Chief among them are chemical, biological, radioactive, and nuclear (CBRN) hazards. Safeguarding the warfighter against deadly exposure to these hazards hinges on detection and avoidance.
That’s where Draper comes in.
Our engineers are designing a major advance in autonomous unmanned system for CBRN Reconnaissance for situational awareness with the modern battlespace in mind.
Dubbed the CBRN Sensor Integration on Robotic Platform or CSIRP, the system is capable of searching even small, cluttered places and detecting CBRN hazards. We built teams of autonomous robots and drones that carry multiple sensors and can communicate with human operators and central command. Our novel sensor-driven algorithms allow the UAVs and robots to make real-time decisions about where to go next, increasing their efficiency and effectiveness. With a more complete picture of the threat environment, the warfighter gains a major tactical advantage — situational awareness – while remaining at a safe distance.
On Draper’s past ACE program, we designed software to operate on small handheld drones to monitor immediate surroundings using a single camera; that technology could be adapted to larger drones or other autonomous vehicles.
“We are able to send the UAV out in front of the hazard area, so the soldier does not have to be in contact with danger,” said Won Kim, CSIRP program manager.
Unparalleled Agility and Situational Awareness
CSIRP autonomy must be capable of self-navigating to a target, maneuvering within tight spaces and avoiding obstacles.
To do this, the system relies on Draper’s novel algorithm to synthesize the data from its onboard sensors – including GPS, LiDAR, accelerometer, magnetometer, and an onboard camera – and enable the drone/robot team to make real-time decisions about where to go.
With this robust sensor data, the system is able to operate when one or more inputs are unavailable or unreliable, such as areas without GPS, zones where GPS may be spoofed, and zero-light environments.
Autonomous Teams with a Human in the Loop
CSIRP drones and robots not only communicate with each other, but actually work as a team.
Multiple drones can be launched simultaneously and coordinate the areas they search, and aerial drones can provide direction to ground-based robots. And a human operator can override their decisions and redirect or abort the mission, as needed.
Because the underlying design of CSIRP is highly modular, the system can be adapted to other missions – including ground or maritime autonomy – and equipped with a variety of other sensors.
The Future of CSIRP
Funded by the Joint Program Executive Office for Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear Defense (JPEO-CBRND), CSIRP is currently being transitioned to a program of record for the U.S. Army, which means it will soon be fully operational in the field. Draper has also been awarded a $26 million contract by the United States Department of Defense to further expand the capabilities of its unmanned autonomous systems (UAS) software to perform CBRN reconnaissance missions in collaborative teams and in degraded operating environments.
As our autonomous systems and human systems engineers continue to advance the state of the art, we are excited to be pushing the boundaries of human-machine teaming.