(Jump to Research Projects)

Research Areas

The central integrative theme of RECUV is Cooperative Mobile Sensing Systems. Toward this end, our research is focused into six areas:
Perception Under Uncertainty

RECUV develops probabilistic perception algorithms, sensor fusion and estimation theory that enable long-term autonomous operation of mobile robotic systems, particularly in unknown environments.

Mission-Derived Small UAS Design

RECUV focuses on the design of new UAS for communication and sensing applications. Examples include the Tempest UAS for studying severe storms and the AresMax which integrates a wireless communication antenna into the aircraft wing.

Mobile Ad-Hoc Communications

RECUV deploys delay-tolerant, ad-hoc protocols that allow unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) to operate in stressed or fractured networks. Cognitive radios are being developed that scan the RF spectrum to select frequencies with the best performance.

Cooperative UAS Teams

Teams of cooperating UAS can perform missions better, faster, and more efficiently than larger single vehicle systems. RECUV focuses on net-centric architectures and algorithms for autonomous control of multiple small unmanned aircraft.

Vehicle-Sensor Integration

Payloads that have been integrated into UAS by RECUV include a laser altimeter, synthetic aperture radar, wing-integrated antenna, IP-based video camera, ELINT package, atmospheric sensors, phased array antenna, dropsonde, and gimbaled camera.

Robotic Sensor-Networks

This area combines work in networked unmanned systems, cooperative control, controlled mobility in ad hoc networks, and optimal distributed sensing to develop heterogeneous robot sensor networks for in situ science applications.

Advanced Propulsion Systems

RECUV develops small, efficient gas turbine based propulsion systems to enable high-speed UAS for advanced applications. This includes GoJett - the world’s first supersonic UAS – developed to facilitate low cost, high speed research.

Airspace Integration

Safety regulations designed by the FAA for large aircraft in populated areas are not appropriate for many UAS applications. RECUV works with the FAA to help them characterize UAS operation and to develop new safety technology for the aviation sector.

Current Research Projects

Airdata Verification And Integrated Airborne Tempest Experiment (AVIATE)
Investigators: Brian Argrow (PI), Eric Frew(CU), Conrad Zeigler (NSSL), Adam Houston (UNL)
Sponsor: National Severe Storms Laboratory

RECUV is collaborating with the National Severe Storms Laboratory, the University of Nebraska, the Center for Severe Weather Research, and the CSU-CHILL radar facility to validate in situ wind and thermodynamic sensing capabilities of the CU Tempest UAS.

CAREER: Mothership / Daughtership Architectures for In Situ Science by Robotic Sensor Networks
Investigators: Eric Frew
Sponsor: NSF: Robust Intelligence

The objective of this project is to develop fundamental understanding of control strategies that can exploit the complimentary computation, sensing, and communication capabilities of the members of a mothership/daughtership robotic sensor network performing in situ volumetric sensing.

Energy-Aware Aerial Systems for Persistent Sampling and Surveillance
Investigators: Eric Frew (PI), Brian Argrow (CU), Adam Houston (UNL), and Chris Weiss (Texas Tech)
Sponsor: AFOSR Dynamic Data-Drive Application Systems Program

The goal of this work is to create energy-aware, airborne, dynamic data-driven application systems for persistent sensing in complex atmospheric conditions. The work combines i.) new onboard and remote real-time, wind sensing capabilities; ii.) online models for planning that use machine learning techniques for onboard data and dynamic atmospheric models that assimilate Doppler radar data; iii.) a hierarchical guidance and control framework with algorithms that can adapt to environmental, sensing, and computational resources; and iv.) experimental validation of all algorithms and techniques.

Fluidic Injection for Active Thrust Vectoring Flow Control
Investigators: Ryan Starkey (PI); Ken Jansen, Peter Hamlington (Collaborators)
Sponsor: CU Innovative Seed Grant

The project includes the development and testing of a physics-based theoretical model to quantify the effect of fluidic injection on the active flow control of a small gas turbine engine nozzle. The goals are the simultaneous achievement of improved vectoring performance with a reduction of injectant fluid over baseline conditions.

GoJett Supersonic UAS
Investigators: Ryan Starkey
Sponsor: eSpace

The GoJett project is part of an ambitious multi-year effort to: 1) set the World Speed Record in the < 50 kg UAV class, 2) to develop a tailless supersonic UAV capable of Mach 1.4, 3) to develop a small afterburning turbojet engine for the above, and 4) to develop a fluidic thrust vectoring nozzle.

Innovative Passive Magnetic Thrust Bearings for High-Speed Turbomachinery
Investigators: Ryan Starkey
Sponsor: Naval Research Laboratory Phase II STTR with Mainstream Engineering

In miniature gas turbines for UAV applications, traditional bearings exhibit a typical lifetime of only 25 hours due to excessive axial loading. Mainstream has proposed to use a passive, permanent magnet thrust bearing to alleviate this problem and increase service life to over 1000 hours. This phase of the project will conclude with testing of the new bearing system in a small turboprop engine.

Investigations of Spatial and Temporal Variability of Ocean and Ice Conditions In and Near the Marginal Ice Zone (aka the Marginal Ice Zone Observations and Processes Experiment [MIZOPEX])
Investigators: J. Maslanik (PI), B. Argrow, S. Castro, W. Emery, E. Frew, D. Jackson, D. Lawrence, S. Palo, M. Tschudi, B. Weatherhead (CU); A. Mahoney, G. Walker (U. Alaska Fairbanks); W. Good (Ball Aerospace, Inc.); D. Long (Brigham Young U.); C. Zappa (Columbia U./Lamont Doherty); J. Heinrichs (Fort Hays State U.); G. Bland (NASA), J. Adler and G. Wick (NOAA); M. Steele (U. Washington)
Sponsor: NASA

MIZOPEX will employ UAS to assess ocean and ice variability during the melt season, exploiting unique capabilities of multiple classes of unmanned systems (the NASA Ikhana, Insitu ScanEagles, and a CU microUAS) combined with UAS- and ship-deployed buoys and satellite observations. Flights will take place over the Beaufort Sea in summer 2013. The measurement strategy has three basic aspects: extensive airborne surface mapping repeated frequently over large areas for comparisons with satellite-derived sea surface temperature and sea ice data sets; sustained observations of ocean surface and subsurface conditions over 10's of hours; and repeated visitation to locations within the ice pack, allowing Lagrangian observations over a period of weeks to assess how specific portions of the ice pack and open ocean evolve over summer.

NSF Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Investigators: Eric Frew (PI), Brian Argrow, Tim Brown, and Dale Lawrence (CU); Tim McLain, Randy Beard, Michael Goodrich, and Mark Colton (BYU)
Sponsor: NSF Industry/University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC)

The University of Colorado and Brigham Young University are establishing an Industry/University Cooperative Research Center for Unmanned Aircraft Systems to address the issues common to the UAS industry that limit widespread application across military, civil, and commercial domains.

Observations of Wind Turbine Wakes Using Unmanned Aircraft Systems
Investigators: John Cassano (CIRES, ATOC), Brian Argrow, Eric Frew, Katja Friedrich (ATOC), Dale Lawrence, and Julie Lundquist (RASEI, ATOC, NREL)
Sponsor: CIRES Innovative Research Program

This project will demonstrate the utility of small UAS for studying wind turbine wakes. The use of UAS allows for observations covering the entire atmospheric volume of a wind farm, with position easily changed as the upstream flow direction varies.

RI: Small: Providing Quality of Service of Information in Robot Sensor Networks
Investigators: Eric Frew
Sponsor: NSF: Robust Intelligence

This project develops a framework for the control of robot sensor networks that integrates sensing, communication, and actuation into a single approach based on a new concept of quality of service of information. By controlling the mobility and communication of some nodes in the system, quality of service of information, in the form of probabilistic performance guarantees based on information-theoretic metrics, can be achieved.

Saturated Fluid Pistonless Pump Technology Demonstrator
Investigators: Ryan Starkey
Sponsor: NASA Game Changing Opportunities in Technology Development Program

The goal of this project is to develop and flight test a pistonless rocket fuel pump based on the technology of Flometrics (consultants). Since this pump has no moving parts is not prone to traditional failure mechanisms seen in rocket launch applications (it would also be a good technology for an in-space fuel depot). This project is currently being developed for a research flight on Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo or other similar vehicle.