Joint EDA/European Space Agency (ESA) Autonomous Drone Services in CBRNe Operation (AUDROS) project edges closer.

AUDROS was one of the awarded teams of the one-year feasibility study contract worth €350,000. The Consortium was made up of four partners: the two Czech companies BizGarden (as prime) and GINA Software, the Polish company Cervi Robotics, and the Czech Ministry of Defence research institution known as VTU.

Starting in early 2018, the joint EDA/ESA team analysed the solutions proposed by industry to meet user needs for CBRNe countermeasures. It laid out the definition of a remotely piloted aircraft system (RPAS) hangar system to enable fully autonomous beyond-visual-line-of-sight drone operations equipped to carry out day or night detection of persons and equipment, and search and map radiation sources, chemical warfare agents or toxic industrial pollution.

In late 2018 a proof-of-concept system for AUDROS was demonstrated which comprised a modified off-the-shelf quadcopter RPAS with a maximum take-off weight of 25 kg and a hangar. Equipped with lightweight sensors for radiation and gas detection, AUDROS’ test scenario focused on detecting a chemical near a large industrial site by sending the drone to ‘sniff out’ the agent’s molecules and location.

“Space technologies are a crucial component of AUDROS”, said Beatrice Barresi, ESA’s Project Officer. “Satellite Navigation allows us to command the RPAS and to monitor the position of the rescue team in the field. That is not all: satellite imagery are needed to visualise the situation and to provide best available data to command the RPAS. Last but not least, satellite communication protects data transfer towards remote dispatch/command.”

The prototype’s portable hangar, which was connected to a fixed power source, was designed to enable the drone to autonomously re-charge its battery. Expanding on this design in future to enable auto-switching of detection suites, for example, would significantly increase the flexibility and duration of AUDROS-based missions, particularly if several drones and hangars were deployed at the same time.

AUDROS is a logical outgrowth of the EDA’s Joint Investment Programme on CBRN Protection, which it launched in 2012 to stimulate R&T work in the defence sector among its Member States and their industries.