RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT
Connects First Responders
The Internet of Things has a sibling. New wearable
devices that keep first responders in constant contact
with command posts have spawned the Internet of Public
Safety Things, or IoPST.
Mutualink has developed a wearable communications
gateway for the IoPST, which aims to equip first responders with interconnected technology that can share, in real
time, large amounts of multimedia information. IoPST
tools are designed to dovetail with the nationwide rollout
of FirstNet, the first-ever high-speed wireless communications network dedicated to public safety.
The company’s Wearable Smart Gateway (WSG) is
powered by the tiny and ultra-low-power Intel Edison
module, which significantly reduces response times and
helps first responders overcome the classic challenges of
The WSG bridges wearable devices such as body cameras,
heart-rate monitors, locator beacons and other sensors
that instantly and securely transmit data, improving situational awareness for responders on the ground and off-site
commanders. It seeks to increase the efficiency of all these
devices by connecting them via a secure network to share
voice, video, health sensor data, location and more.
FirstNet’s creators envision guaranteeing first responders a dedicated span of spectrum to avoid perils such as
those seen in the aftermath of 2012’s Hurricane Sandy,
when the cellphone network was one of the first parts of
the infrastructure to fail.
The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) collabo- rated with the Air Vehicle Intelligence and Auton- omy (AVIA) Lab at Penn State to test cooperative autonomous soaring algorithms that kept unmanned
sailplanes aloft far beyond expected battery life. Two powered sailplanes soared for more than five hours at altitudes
greater than a half-mile during recent test runs.
Guiding the aircraft were the NRL’s Autonomous
Locator of Thermals (ALOFT) soaring algorithm and
AVIA’s AutoSOAR algorithm, used onboard. NRL
researchers also employed technologies such as atmospheric mapping and collision avoidance algorithms
to successfully pilot the aircraft on multiple flights,
according to the NRL.
“Autonomous soaring algorithms seek out naturally
occurring areas of rising air called thermals,” states Dan
Edwards, aerospace engineer and principle investigator of
the NRL’s solar-soaring program. “This atmospheric map
is then integrated to guide both aircraft toward strong lift
activity quicker than if it was just a single aircraft—a tech-
nique very similar to that used by a flock of soaring birds.”
Applying this approach resulted in each aircraft fly-
ing several 2 1/2-hour flights, despite carrying a bat-
tery with the capacity for only four minutes of fly-
ing time. The NRL’s best soaring flight lasted a little
more than five hours on a motor-driven propeller that
should have endured for just 27 minutes. Both air-
craft rode thermals to altitudes exceeding 1,400 meters
( 4,593 feet), with several individual climbs of more
than 1,000 meters ( 3,280 feet), using only the power of
This view of Phillips Army Airfield at Aberdeen Proving
Ground in Maryland was captured by a tail-mounted
camera onboard a Penn State unmanned aircraft testing
technologies to keep unmanned sailplanes aloft in
sustained flight. The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory is
working with the university’s Air Vehicle Intelligence and
Autonomy Lab to demonstrate autonomous soaring
algorithms to improve intelligence, surveillance and
reconnaissance mission data.
Naval Lab Tests UAV Cooperative Soaring
“These tests showed both the NRL’s and [Penn State’s]
autonomous soaring algorithms are successful at finding and using thermals by themselves,” Edwards says.
“More importantly, this testing showed proof of concept on multiple occasions, with both aircraft finding
thermals and ‘calling’ the other aircraft over to use the
same area of lift to increase endurance of the swarm.”