Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are considerably finding increased usage in many military and civilian activities. Drones are used in many ways practically including; Archaeological surveying, Environmental studies, meteorology, Law enforcement, firefighting, healthcare, farming and many others. In military UAVs are performing a wider range of functions like reconnaissance, research, armed attacks or search and rescue.
UAVs are designed in various shapes and sizes, large UAVs that resemble small helicopters and planes, micro drones, quadcopters collectively cater to the above-mentioned purposes. Some drones are used for the unmanned military strike against the enemies. In fact, the practical applications of UAV’s are limitless but also are the challenges of integrating various systems in a relatively smaller space, Small form factor embedded computers very aptly address this challenge.
Many of the applications for which UAVs can be used require a significant amount of computations and require fail safe mechanism with autonomic control enabled by an onboard computer. The purpose of onboard computers is not just for safety features but also for autonomous decision making or preprogrammed with a certain algorithm to follow a certain course using autopilot in a safety critical or labor-intensive tasks. Whether designed for the military or civilian purpose, these UAVs require systems that support bandwidth-heavy communications, data processing applications and advanced imaging capabilities.
Embedded onboard computers also enable connected UAVs which can communicate with each other in networked communication architecture. The UAV architecture is classified into 3 major sub systems: airframe (Flight Controls), payload(sensors), and weapons (for UAVs capable of offensive operations). In autonomous vehicles, the emphasis is given to payload processing. It is beneficial to include their on-platform communications backbone, the mission processor, the avionics suite, or any other electronics that we can subsume into the system to meet the vectors of horsepower, weight, or power.
Industry can meet the needs of different classes of UAVs defined for a specific purpose using COTS products. COTS processing and network solutions that are SWAP optimized have been designed and evolved to meet all the 3 classes of UAVs. The UAV systems have been ranging from 3U VPX backplane-based LRM systems, compact self-contained LRU systems built with rugged PC/104 or COM Express-based SFF technologies in the midrange.
In addition, there is a new class of extremely compact LRUs, Ultra-small form factor(uSFF) systems with a large proportion of size and weight reduction without compromising network-management capabilities. These USFF systems are a good fit for the smaller, low-altitude UAVs which call for pressing size and weight limitations. The emergence of new class of Ultra-small form factor(uSFF) systems holds promise for space and weight sensitive UAV applications.
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