Unmanned in Demand: Computer Considerations for Unmanned Vehicles

Unmanned in Demand: Computer Considerations for Unmanned Vehicles

By Robert Haag, Vice President of Sales and Marketing, Crystal Group Inc.

Unmanned vehicles are becoming more prevalent in a wide variety of market verticals including: aerospace, agriculture, cinematography, construction, energy, government and defense, mapping and survey, maritime, oil and gas, public safety, retail and logistics, transportation, and wireless. At next week’s Automated Vehicles Symposium, the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) will cast a spotlight on the complex technology and policy issues of safe, automated mobility.

Unmanned systems are growing in popularity and use, as well as complexity. The number and variety of sensors on unmanned platforms are on the rise. Modern unmanned vehicles – ranging from unmanned aircraft systems (UAS, also known as drones), unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), and robots to self-driving cars and trucks – are generating, processing, sharing, and storing an unprecedented amount of data. This figure will only increase over time, especially as autonomous vehicles take to the air and to the streets. All these unmanned trends are driving the demand for high-performance, highly reliable computer systems – in the vehicle, ground control stations, and data centers.

The computer system is critical to virtually all unmanned and autonomous vehicle functions, encompassing everything from command and control to data handling. Engineers working on unmanned and autonomous platforms take considerable care when selecting the optimal computing solution, weighing a wealth of design considerations and options.

The top considerations for autonomous and unmanned vehicle computer systems include: size, weight, power and thermal management, cost, and ruggedness.

Size: In-vehicle computers must be compact, but still very capable, as platforms grow in functionality but shrink in size.
Weight: Every ounce matters on unmanned vehicles, as it can affect range and fuel economy; strong, lightweight materials like carbon fiber are a popular option for unmanned computer and electronics chassis.
Power and thermal: The use of powerful processors – CPUs, GPUs, and GPGPUs – in compact computer systems demands sophisticated power and thermal management, including the selection of components that neither consume a lot of power, nor produce a lot of waste heat.
Cost: Commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) components enable unmanned vehicle designs to take advantage of the latest technology advances while also saving money and avoiding obsolescence issues.
Rugged: Unmanned vehicle computers need to work reliably and to withstand harsh environments, elements, and conditions – such as shock and vibration, temperature extremes, dust/dirt/sand, and rain/snow/humidity.

Crystal Group’s engineering team takes all the above characteristics into consideration when designing and developing its products, including the Crystal Group RIA™ (Rugged Intelligence Appliance) line, AVC0161 Ai & Autonomy Solution, and RS363S15F Rugged 3U Server for autonomous, unmanned, and motor vehicle applications. Contact Crystal Group to discuss your vehicle computing and electronics needs.

About the Author:

Bob Haag is the Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Crystal Group.  He joined the company in 2016, and is responsible for global business identification, capture and delivery.  Bob holds a Bachelor of Science and Masters of Science in Computer Engineering.

Prior to joining Crystal Group, he spent 10 years in various executive leadership positions at Rockwell Collins including Vice President & General Manager, Communication & Navigation Products and Vice President, Sales & Marketing.