Using SWaP-C Reductions to Improve UAS/UGV Mission Capabilities

April 30, 2016

Using SWaP-C Reductions to Improve UAS/UGV Mission Capabilities

The defense and aerospace market continues to push for reductions in size, weight, power, and cost (SWaP-C) to support advanced sensor/vetronics payloads onboard unmanned platforms. Groundbreaking SWaP-C reduction for processor and network switch systems are enabling UAS (unmanned aircraft system) and UGV (unmanned ground vehicle) platforms to expand their mission capabilities. Several technologies are driving this small form factor revolution, including tightly integrated system-on-chips (SoCs), semiconductor packaging advancements (i.e. smaller nanometer dies, lower voltage chips), and micro-miniature rugged connectors.

The need for ever-greater SWaP reductions stems largely from the balance between the small size of many unmanned platforms and the number of payload electronics that need to be integrated on those platforms. For the most part, UGVs, UUVs, USVs, UAVs are smaller platforms, and generally speaking, their mission and purpose is to serve as a sensor host for information gathering. These sensors can include FLIR cameras and other types of imaging technology to conduct surveillance, and capture video or photos or mapping information.

The platforms might also include onboard sensors used to remotely control the aircraft or vehicle or to allow autonomous operation of the platform. This requires that various processing elements and various sensors are interconnected to gather information. Typically, if there are multiple processors on the platform they will be supported with a data communications network, which is driving the need for smaller processors and network switch connectivity. At the same time, system designers want devices that meet the requirements, from an environmental and EMI standpoint, to operate in harsh environments such as at high altitudes or during water ingress. Other notable reliability concerns that need to be mitigated include dealing with “dirty power” that might otherwise damage devices due to high voltage surges or spikes, and also noisy electrical environments aboard the vehicle that may disrupt adjacent devices.

Helping to increase requirements for SWaP reductions is the issue of how weight can affect a mission’s endurance. One UAS customer states that every pound they can eliminate from their combat UAS platform saves them approximately $60,000 in cost for their vehicle. For an ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) mission platform, it’s calculated that it costs $30,000 to add a pound, or inversely saves $30,000 to eliminate a pound. So what are these costs? Where do they come from?

Read the article on the Aerospace & Defense Technology website. 

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