Andalusia consolidates its presence in the field of UAV research through its participation in the PLANET project

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Oct 1, 2010

This initiative under the European Commission’s 7th framework Programme will research the integration of wireless sensor networks on unmanned aircraft systems and will involve the collaboration of the Centre for Advanced Aerospace Technology (fADA-CATEC). Spain heads the consortium for the project, which also includes partners from Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and Belgium.

On 1 October work began on the PLAnET project, an ini- tiative under the 7th Framework Programme of the Eu- ropean Commission which will research the integration of wireless sensor networks on unmanned aircraft systems. This four-year project will involve both fixed-wing aircraft and unmanned helicopters designed to carry out data collection in locations which are inaccessible by land and deployment of wireless sensor net- work nodes and even small mobile robots. The technology devel- oped under the project is to be applied in two areas: environmental protection and automation of airport operations. The project consortium consists of a total of 12 members from Spain, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy and Belgium. Spain will have a standout role as leader of the project with 38% of the budget, consisting of more than 7 million euros of the 19 million euros assigned for the totality of the research. Andalusia will also have a strong presence in the PLAnET project given that the Centre for Advanced Aerospace Technology of the Andalusian Foundation for Aerospace Development (FADA- CATEC) will direct the environmental protection experiments to be held at the Doñana Biological Station of the Higher Council for Sci- entific Research (CSIC), which also participates under the project. These experiments will monitor the flora and fauna of the area us- ing UAVs.

This participation confirms the importance and potential of Andalusian research in the field of UAVs, which has already seen major advances in recent years through CATEC, including recog- nition in the form of various prizes and presence in other Europe- an projects. The intention is to cement Andalusia’s position as a leader in this field of the aeronautical industry, which has a promis- ing future due to the enormous possibilities offered by unmanned aerial navigation. The PLAnET project will use the results obtained regarding deployment of sensors and transport of loads using unmanned helicopters from the recently completed AWARE project under the 6th Framework Programme.

This project was coordinated by the scientific director of CATEC, Aníbal Ollero, who also heads the An- dalusian participation in this new research project. The aim now is to apply these results to unmanned aerial vehicles such as the Viewer and the X-Vision developed by CATEC, which will enable observation flights and data collection activities with greater range and duration than those carried out using helicopters. Unmanned helicopters will continue to be used for observations requiring stationary flight and transport of small robots (also equipped with cameras and sensors), which will be deployed in locations without land access to carry out permanent data recording and surveil- lance tasks from the ground.

FADA-CATEC will be directing the environmental protection experiments, which will take place at the Doñana Biological Station.

The PLAnET project also contemplates monitoring of possible cases of contamination. The UAVs and wireless sensor networks will be integrated into the already existing Scientific and Techno- logical Infrastructure (ICTS) at Doñana, enabling recording of im- ages and data and deployment of sensors where required to moni- tor dynamic events. Meanwhile, the airport automation experiments under the project will be carried out at the facilities of FADA-CATEC’s ATLAS Experimental Flight Centre in Villacarrillo (Jaén).

These will consist of automatic take-off, landing and taxi operations using multiple unmanned aerial vehicles and wireless sensors on the runways. Studies will also be carried out of air traffic management strategies for airports in the event of emergencies such as loss of commu- nications between aircraft and the control tower. In such cases, the UAVs will be used to maintain communications and assist with landing and runway traffic strategies.