Means of electronic optic intelligence for Ukrainian UAVs
22 october 2018
The mission that is assigned to the UAV is the delivery of the payload to the destination and its using. Regardless of the type, size, range of the drone, it is just a carrier, transport for something more valuable. Basically, the modern world requires spectacles, which are realized by the novelties of technical progress. Good pictures of landscape from a bird's eye view, video surveillance of the pipeline, correction of artillery, coastline patrols: all these tasks are solved in the same way - multi-functional optical loads.
A well-solved task of observing (holding) an object in the field of view of a drone’s camera is always a compromise. To observe a fast object, you need a motorized camera suspension system, and fast focusing on the object. While to consider all the details of the object, we need high-quality optical, mechanical and software stabilization, while the suspension system itself will be massive and inert. For target indication or correction, without high precision calibrated optics and hybrid systems for tracking camera angles nothing can be done.
In the Ukrainian realities, the manufacturers of UAVs went in two ways - some decided to buy a ready-made foreign device, which already has top characteristics in its class, but at the same time a top price tag. And the other decided to go thorny path on their own. In recent years, dozens of prototypes of useful optical loads by each of the UAV manufacturers have been created from scratch, ranging from simple suspensions on a single servo-mechanism and an action camera to the most complex devices with box cameras with 30-fold zoom and television modules with athermal optics. The current year is a turning point for many, and will mark the transition of most manufacturers to new standards for the transmission and data recording that their drones have. Standardization and the need to integrate into the NATO system is the main vector for designers and programmers in this field. Few of those who got involved in the Ukrainian arms race sustained its pace:
In the unmanned "Themes" it all started with the use of amateur technologies, essentially top-end in their field, but still not reliable. A huge push to the overhead systems for optical cameras was given precisely by copters, multi-rotor vehicles for vertical takeoff and landing. They were first noticed for a movie-photo shoot and began to invent how to take a picture or frame better and better. First, on servo-mechanisms, then, on the same servo-mechanisms, but already with enhanced feedback, and only 5 years ago the first systems appeared on brushless engines with a feedback system on a gyroscope mounted on the camera.
And here it started, each manufacturer got in their hands unique tool for creating the “Own” suspension of the aircraft. At first, small systems were applied on two axes, with cameras 6, 8, 10, 12 times. Then large and solid suspensions appeared, with several cameras, optics 20, 30 times. But there was not enough accuracy, the sensors in the camera suspensions during the flight due to temperature changes gave floating values, the engines and drivers overheated. All this forced to develop, refine and constantly improve products. Not so long ago, progress made it possible to improve the suspension systems, to install compact and accurate magnetic encoders for drive motors.
Accuracy increased, speed increased, but a lot of time was also spent on implementing this technology. Now, the average suspension system of a small UAV of Ukrainian production looks very similar in terms of parameters regarding stabilization and optical characteristics, the difference is in the details. Someone produces them from heavy-duty body materials, develops their own algorithms and control and correction schemes, and some pay more attention to the marketing component and promote primitivism of execution. Each suspension is needed, but each is unique for its unique task!
But mechanics is mechanics, stabilization is stabilization, but the quality of the received information also depends on how to convey it to the final user. The simplest option is a photography, it is easy to transfer it, it does not always have to be relevant at the moment, and you can wait for the carrier to return and remove information from it with the maximum quality without loss. But this is not necessary for everyone, but only for a small part of users. The rest want to get a good "online" image, without delay, and with maximum quality. Here every manufacturer decides for himself how to do it. Some, as before, transfers the image by analogue way, using open radio channels. Other choose more difficult way and does according to NATO standards, creating protected radio data lines, and transmitting information in a hidden form identification.
The second way is more difficult, but it is the right one. After all, the adopted vector of integration with NATO troops requires the compatibility of standards and types of data transmission. Each manufacturer that goes along this path faces many problems, because this kind of standardization makes everyone civilize, and makes them bring the equipment up to the STANAG requirements and receive certificates of conformity and ISO standards. This future is coming; each Ukrainian-made unmanned aerial vehicle will easily integrate into a single NATO military command and control system, and perfectly fulfill the task assigned to it!
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