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AI Seminar

Energy-Aware Flight Planning for Unattended Unmanned Seaplane Operation

Ella AtkinsAssociate Professor, Department of Aerospace EngineeringUniversity of Michigan

The Flying Fish autonomous unmanned seaplane is designed and built for persistent
ocean surveillance. Solar energy harvesting and always-on autonomous control
and guidance are required to achieve unattended long-term operation. This presentation
will describe the energy-aware flight planning and guidance/navigation/control algorithms required for
Flying Fish to execute drift-flight cycles that fly over or drift through regions of interest while maintaining
a watch circle of operation despite winds and limited energy availability.
autonomously execute drift-ight cycles necessary to maintain. Seaplane kinematics
and dynamics are summarized, followed by our successful efforts to fully-automate
watch circle crossing drift-flight cycles. A graph-based mission planner combines models of global solar energy, local ocean-currents, and wind to provide an energy-aware flight planning tool. An NP-hard asymmetric multi-visit traveling salesman planning problem is posed that integrates vehicle performance and environment models using energy as the primary cost metric. A novel A* search heuristic is
presented to improve search efficiency relative to uniform cost search. A series of cases
studies are conducted with surface and airborne goals for various times of day and
for multi-day scenarios. Energy-optimal solutions are identified except in cases where
energy harvesting produces multiple comparable-cost plans via negative-cost cycles.

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