Paper Presented at AIAA Aviation Conference: Rapid Multi-Objective UAS Mission Planning for Operational Risk Management

Current aircraft operations within the National Airspace System (NAS) rely heavily on the presence of an on-board pilot to safely manage the flight. Integration of Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) into the NAS requires a high confidence that these unmanned aircraft operations can meet or exceed the safety afforded through manned operations. Specifically, these UAS operations must not pose an undue risk to persons, structures, and vehicles on the ground. Minimizing risk to the underlaying area can be accomplished through careful planning during the pre-flight phase with full consideration of potential failure modes and vehicle system responses to those failures. Currently, this time and labor-intensive pre-flight planning is manually performed by an Air Vehicle Operator (AVO).

The Autonomous Planning and Replanning (AutoPRep) technology is an Operational Risk Management (ORM) tool that rapidly generates a multi-objective mission plan while also meeting all mission constraints.  The multi-objective planning technique emphasizes minimization of risk imposed on persons and property on the ground while balancing path-length, required maneuvering (turning), and required altitude changes. Further, the AutoPRep planning tool considers hazardous weather (AIRMET/SIGMET) and airspace restrictions during mission planning. The AutoPRep tool can significantly reduce the time required to generate mission plans for UAS and is equally applicable to manned aircraft mission planning.

This paper describes the AutoPRep planning package, presents several case study examples, and summarizes both pre-flight and in-flight planning evaluations.