Saturday, November 17, 2012

USAF Academy- Football Game

On my last night in Colorado Springs I had the opportunity to attend a USAF Academy football game as a VIP. For details and pictures, see my latest entry over at my travel blog: Engineering a Travel Plan....

Friday, November 16, 2012

Tour of the USAF Academy

This week I participated in an Industry Advisory Board (IAB) meeting, where I briefed aviation/aerospace industry representatives, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU)-Worldwide faculty, and University leadership on the status of the Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) curriculum I have been working on for the last couple months. One of the major highlights of this trip was a guided tour of the august military education institution, the U.S. Air Force Academy.

USAF Academy Chapel
MQ-1B Predator UAV on Display in Cadet Dining Hall
Closeup of MQ-1B Predator
USAF Academy Chapel at Night with the Rockies in the Background
USAF Falcons Ice Hockey Rink (notice all of the CNY teams represented here)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Could "spooky actions at a distance" Hold the Key For Latency Free Communication?

Albert Einstein could not support belief in quantum mechanics because "physics should represent a reality in time and space, free from spooky actions at a distance" (as cited in Greene, 2011, sidebar caption).  The phrase "spooky actions at a distance" has become synonymous with quantum entanglement (Greene, 2011; Moskowitz, 2011), which occurs when two particles are linked despite distance of seperation (Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, 2012). Researchers have made significant advances in creating controlled quantum entanglement in the hopes of establishing advanced communication systems (Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, 2012). 
Recently efforts have been made to develop entanglement free quantum communication to obtain faster speeds with diminished distances (Chirgwin, 2012; Zyga, 2012).  These advances hold significant potential for the development of advances communications systems. Quantum communication technology is currently being explored for use in generating encryption keys for U.S. Naval submarine communications (Dillow, 2011).

A key virtue of entangled quantum communication is the capability to retain security, as there would only be communication between the two linked nodes.  As this technology matures, the applicability to unmanned aviation will be significant. The control and telemetry links between ground stations would no longer be subject to latency, loss of signal (LOS) due to attentuation or barrier, and external hacking of signal. 

June 2014 Update: It appears this concept and the associated supporting technology has been refined sufficiently by researchers at the TU Delft's Kavli Institute of Nanoscience, who successfully transmitted a single bit across a three meter space in a lab environment (Jeffrey, 2014). If the process is repeatable, scalable, and stable and the footprint of the equipment can be reduced to support portability, the implications of this research to support latency free communications could be revolutionary.

Chirgwin, R. (2012). Scientists ‘untangle’ quantum communications: Faster without entanglement. The Register. Retrieved from

Dillow, C. (2011). Quantum scheme could allow submarines to communicate securely. Popsci.comRetrieved from

Jeffrey, C. (2014, June 3). Scientists teleport quantum information across the room. Gizmag. Retrieved from

Greene, B. (2011). Spooky action at a distance. NOVA. Retrieved from

Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics. (2012). Breakthrough in quantum communication. AlphaGalileo Foundation website. Retrieved from

Moskowitz, C. (2011). Two diamonds linked by strange quantum entanglement. LiveScience website. Retrieved from

Zyga, L. (2012). Quantum communication without entanglement could perform faster than previously thought possible. Retrieved from

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Proposal to Identify Design and Implementation Criteria for Low Cost Two-Person Supervisory Small Unmanned Aerial System Control

Download in PDF format...

14 Nov Update: I just received word that I have been awarded internal funding from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to pursue this research project. Check back for details as the research is developed and I post the status.

First person view (FPV) equipped model aircraft are a form of small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS), developed and flown by private operators for recreational hobby purposes (Federal Aviation Administration, 2010; Kumar, Ramesh, & Srinivasa, 2011; Schneider, 2010).  FPV operation involves affixing a wireless camera to a remote control (R/C) aircraft and flying the vehicle using the live transmitted video feed as an egocentric view from the aircraft (Finch, 2012; Reyes, 2012; Schneider, 2010).  The legislated rules and recommended regulations set for the operation of FPV aircraft are also inclusive of sUAS developed and flown for research (e.g., academia, Government, and industry) and Government approved missions (e.g., law enforcement, search and rescue, geological surveying, etc.) with a certificate of waiver or authorization (COA; Academy of Model Aeronautics, 2012; Federal Aviation Administration, 2010; Kumar, Ramesh, & Srinivasa, 2011). 

Historically, the flight of FPV aircraft required the use of a spotter (i.e., pilot in command) equipped with a buddy box control to assume command of the aircraft, operated within visual line of sight (LOS; Academy of Model Aeronautics, 2012; Finch, 2012; Lucidity, 2012).  A buddy box setup requires the use of a two linked R/C transmitters (TX) to provide dual control of a single onboard receiver (RX) for supervisory control and manipulation of aircraft servos (, 2012; Cory & Tedrake, 2008; Han, Straw, Dickinson, & Murray, 2009; Hazeldene, Sloan, Wilkin, & Price, 2004; Schneider, 2010).  A noteworthy aspect of using a commercially-off-the-shelf (COTS) buddy box configuration is the reliance on a single RX (, 2012), which represents a single point of failure for control (, 2009).

With the release of the new Academy of Model Aeronautics (AMA; 2012) document, AMA guidelines for radio controlled model aircraft operations utilizing first person view, failsafe, stabilization and autopilot systems, the need for use of a buddy box has been removed for experienced operators (Finch, 2012; Lucidity, 2012).  While a buddy box is no longer required for approved AMA FPV operations (Academy of Model Aeronautics, 2012; Lucidity, 2012), inclusion of a low-cost, easy to implement control solution capable of seamless control hand off while providing a secondary control interface (i.e., second RX) merits consideration based on the safety and operational benefits. The benefits of including a secondary RX and buddy box operational configuration include:

1)      capability to integrate a personal computer (PC) control system with a conventional hobby R/C radio system (data logging, alternate human-machine-interface [HMI] interaction methods, and extended communication range)
2)      decreased timing for spotter (i.e., primary operator) control acquisition/hand off
3)      secondary control in the case of signal loss for primary TX/RX (control redundancy)
4)      capability for manual operator control when integrated with an autopilot/autonomous control system

This research study is proposed to examine the needs and limitations of sUAS operators and recommend a low cost control solution (i.e., system and procedures) for two person supervisory operations within established legal boundaries for increased safety and operational benefits. For the purpose of this research, sUAS are defined as R/C model aircraft weighing 15 pounds (lbs) or less with a maximum speed of 70 miles per hour (mph; Academy of Model Aeronautics, 2012) and operators are defined as researchers, Government agencies, and first person view (FPV) remote control (RC) model aircraft hobbyist.

Estimated Equipment Costs (to prove functionality and perform evaluation of design and procedures; see following)

Eight-channel hobby radio system (TX/RX)         
Futaba8JH 8-Channel 2.4GHz S-FHSS Heli Radio System
$279.99 (1 unit):  $279.9

sUAS Platform
Heli-MaxAxe 400 3D Rx-R w/4 Futaba S3114 Servos       
$249.99 (1 unit): $249.99

$44.99 (2 units): $89.98

$53.95 (1 unit): $53.95 

$179.98 (1 unit):  $179.98

$29.95 (1 unit): $29.95 

$149.00 (1 unit): $149.00

$19.95 (2 units): $39.90

$3.25 (1 unit):  $3.25

$34.99 (1 unit): $34.99 

$129.99 (1 unit): $129.99

USB Video Capture
DIAMONDVC500 One Touch Video Capture Edit Stream or Burn to DVD USB 2.0    
$49.99 (1 unit): $49.99 

To cover, shipping and handling, tax, and unforeseen costs 
12.50% subtotal: $161.37      
Total Estimated Costs: $1,452.33

Proposed Design Overview

Estimated Timeline/Milestones
·         Performance of literature review and development of documentation identifying design criteria (duration: one month starting in January 2013)
·         Development of recommended design and associated documentation (e.g., architectural overview diagrams, theory of operation, and design decisions; duration: one month starting in February 2013)
·         Construction of proof of concept system (duration: two months starting in March 2013)
·         Component and integrated testing of system (duration: one month starting May 2013)
·         Development of conference ready whitepaper, documenting results and recommendations (eight to 10 pages, in Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers [IEEE] format; duration: two months starting in May 2013 and concluded by 30 June 2013)

REFERENCES (2009). Features of the wireless buddy box. Retrieved from

Academy of Model Aeronautics. (2012). AMA guidelines for radio controlled model aircraft
operationsutilizing first person view, failsafe, stabilization and autopilot systems [Adobe Acrobat reader]. Retrieved from (2012). Wireless head tracker instruction manualv1.0 [Adobe Acrobat
Reader]. Retrieved from

Cory, R., & Tedrake, R. (2008). Experiments in fixed-wing UAV perching [Adobe Acrobat
Reader]. Paper presented at the AIAA Guidance, Navigation and Control Conference and Exhibit, Honolulu, HI. Retrieved from

Federal Aviation Administration. (2010). Fact sheet – unmanned aircraftsystems (UAS).
Retrieved from

Fitch, G. (2012 October). Changesin FPV restrictions. Model Aviation, 38(10), 139-142.
Retrieved from

Han, S., Straw, A.D., Dickinson, M.H., & Murray, R.M. (2009). A real-time helicopter testbed
for insect-inspired visual flight control. IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, 3055-3060. doi: 10.1109/ROBOT.2009.5152667

Hazeldene, A., Sloan, A., Wilkin, C., & Price, A. (2004). In-flight orientation, object
identification andlanding support for an unmanned air vehicle [Adobe Acrobat Reader]. Paper presented at the 2nd International Conference on Autonomous Robots and Agents, Palmerston North, New Zealand. Retrieved from

Kumar, K.S., Ramesh, G., & Srinivasa, K.V. (2011). First pilot view (FPV) flying UAV test bed
for acoustic andimage data generation [Adobe Acrobat Reader]. Paper presented at the Symposium on Applied Aerodynamics and Design of Aerospace Vehicle, Bangalore, India. Retrieved from

Lucidity. (2012, October 12). FPV: Legal, or what? [Web log post]. Retrieved from

Reyes, C. (2012a). Definition: FPV aircraft. Retrieved from

Schneider, D. (2010). DIY eye in the sky: How to get a pilot’s-eye view while keeping both feet
on the ground. IEEE Spectrum, 47(2), 20-22. doi: 10.1109/MSPEC.2010.5397773

If you are interested in potential collaboration on this topic/proposal or have any questions, please feel free to contact me.