skip to main content


Title: Engineering Challenges for AI-Supported Computer Vision in Small Uncrewed Aerial Systems
Computer Vision (CV) is used in a broad range of Cyber-Physical Systems such as surgical and factory floor robots and autonomous vehicles including small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS). It enables machines to perceive the world by detecting and classifying objects of interest, reconstructing 3D scenes, estimating motion, and maneuvering around objects. CV algorithms are developed using diverse machine learning and deep learning frameworks, which are often deployed on limited resource edge devices. As sUAS rely upon an accurate and timely perception of their environment to perform critical tasks, problems related to CV can create hazardous conditions leading to crashes or mission failure. In this paper, we perform a systematic literature review (SLR) of CV-related challenges associated with CV, hardware, and software engineering. We then group the reported challenges into five categories and fourteen sub-challenges and present existing solutions. As current literature focuses primarily on CV and hardware challenges, we close by discussing implications for Software Engineering, drawing examples from a CV-enhanced multi-sUAS system.  more » « less
Award ID(s):
1931962
NSF-PAR ID:
10468154
Author(s) / Creator(s):
;
Publisher / Repository:
IEEE
Date Published:
Page Range / eLocation ID:
158 to 170
Subject(s) / Keyword(s):
["Small Uncrewed Aerial Systems, Computer Vision, Artificial Intelligence"]
Format(s):
Medium: X
Location:
Melbourne, Australia
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. In emergency response scenarios, autonomous small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) must be configured and deployed quickly and safely to perform mission-specific tasks. In this paper, we present \DR, a Software Product Line for rapidly configuring and deploying a multi-role, multi-sUAS mission whilst guaranteeing a set of safety properties related to the sequencing of tasks within the mission. Individual sUAS behavior is governed by an onboard state machine, combined with coordination handlers which are configured dynamically within seconds of launch and ultimately determine the sUAS' behaviors, transition decisions, and interactions with other sUAS, as well as human operators. The just-in-time manner in which missions are configured precludes robust upfront testing of all conceivable combinations of features -- both within individual sUAS and across cohorts of collaborating ones. To ensure the absence of common types of configuration failures and to promote safe deployments, we check vital properties of the dynamically generated sUAS specifications and coordination handlers before sUAS are assigned their missions. We evaluate our approach in two ways. First, we perform validation tests to show that the end-to-end configuration process results in correctly executed missions, and second, we apply fault-based mutation testing to show that our safety checks successfully detect incorrect task sequences. 
    more » « less
  2. Bhatele, A. ; Hammond, J. ; Baboulin, M. ; Kruse, C. (Ed.)
    The reactive force field (ReaxFF) interatomic potential is a powerful tool for simulating the behavior of molecules in a wide range of chemical and physical systems at the atomic level. Unlike traditional classical force fields, ReaxFF employs dynamic bonding and polarizability to enable the study of reactive systems. Over the past couple decades, highly optimized parallel implementations have been developed for ReaxFF to efficiently utilize modern hardware such as multi-core processors and graphics processing units (GPUs). However, the complexity of the ReaxFF potential poses challenges in terms of portability to new architectures (AMD and Intel GPUs, RISC-V processors, etc.), and limits the ability of computational scientists to tailor its functional form to their target systems. In this regard, the convergence of cyber-infrastructure for high performance computing (HPC) and machine learning (ML) presents new opportunities for customization, programmer productivity and performance portability. In this paper, we explore the benefits and limitations of JAX, a modern ML library in Python representing a prime example of the convergence of HPC and ML software, for implementing ReaxFF. We demonstrate that by leveraging auto-differentiation, just-in-time compilation, and vectorization capabilities of JAX, one can attain a portable, performant, and easy to maintain ReaxFF software. Beyond enabling MD simulations, end-to-end differentiability of trajectories produced by ReaxFF implemented with JAX makes it possible to perform related tasks such as force field parameter optimization and meta-analysis without requiring any significant software developments. We also discuss scalability limitations using the current version of JAX for ReaxFF simulations. 
    more » « less
  3. Missing person searches are typically initiated with a description of a person that includes their age, race, clothing, and gender, possibly supported by a photo. Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) imbued with Computer Vision (CV) capabilities, can be deployed to quickly search an area to find the missing person; however, the search task is far more difficult when a crowd of people is present, and only the person described in the missing person report must be identified. It is particularly challenging to perform this task on the potentially limited resources of an sUAS. We therefore propose AirSight, as a new model that hierarchically combines multiple CV models, exploits both onboard and off-board computing capabilities, and engages humans interactively in the search. For illustrative purposes, we use AirSight to show how a person's image, extracted from an aerial video can be matched to a basic description of the person. Finally, as a work-in-progress paper, we describe ongoing efforts in building an aerial dataset of partially occluded people and physically deploying AirSight on our sUAS. 
    more » « less
  4. Research in the area of Cyber-Physical Systems (CPS) is hampered by the lack of available project environments in which to explore open challenges and to propose and rigorously evaluate solutions. In this “New Ideas and Emerging Results” paper we introduce a CPS research incubator – based upon a system, and its associated project environment, for managing and coordinating the flight of small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS). The research incubator provides a new community resource, making available diverse, high-quality project artifacts produced across multiple releases of a safety-critical CPS. It enables researchers to experiment with their own novel solutions within a fully-executable runtime environ- ment that supports both high-fidelity sUAS simulations as well as physical sUAS. Early collaborators from the software engineering community have shown broad and enthusiastic support for the project and its role as a research incubator, and have indicated their intention to leverage the environment to address their own research areas of goal modeling, runtime adaptation, safety-assurance, and software evolution. 
    more » « less
  5. In September 2019, the fourth and final workshop on the Future of Mechatronics and Robotics Education (FoMRE) was held at a Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, MI. This workshop was organized by faculty at several universities with financial support from industry partners and the National Science Foundation. The purpose of the workshops was to create a cohesive effort among mechatronics and robotics courses, minors and degree programs. Mechatronics and Robotics Engineering (MRE) is an integration of mechanics, controls, electronics, and software, which provides a unique opportunity for engineering students to function on multidisciplinary teams. Due to its multidisciplinary nature, it attracts diverse and innovative students, and graduates better-prepared professional engineers. In this fast growing field, there is a great need to standardize educational material and make MRE education more widely available and easier to adopt. This can only be accomplished if the community comes together to speak with one clear voice about not only the benefits, but also the best ways to teach it. These efforts would also aid in establishing more of these degree programs and integrating minors or majors into existing computer science, mechanical engineering, or electrical engineering departments. The final workshop was attended by approximately 50 practitioners from industry and academia. Participants identified many practical skills required for students to succeed in an MRE curriculum and as practicing engineers after graduation. These skills were then organized into the following categories: professional, independent learning, controller design, numerical simulation and analysis, electronics, software development, and system design. For example, professional skills include technical reports, presentations, and documentation. Independent learning includes reading data sheets, performing internet searches, doing a literature review, and having a maker mindset. Numerical simulation skills include understanding data, presenting data graphically, solving and simulating in software such as MATLAB, Simulink and Excel. Controller design involves selecting a controller, tuning a controller, designing to meet specifications, and understanding when the results are good enough. Electronics skills include selecting sensors, interfacing sensors, interfacing actuators, creating printed circuit boards, wiring on a breadboard, soldering, installing drivers, using integrated circuits, and using microcontrollers. Software development of embedded systems includes agile program design, state machines, analyzing and evaluating code results, commenting code, troubleshooting, debugging, AI and machine learning. Finally, system design includes prototyping, creating CAD models, design for manufacturing, breaking a system down into subsystems, integrating and interfacing subcomponents, having a multidisciplinary perspective, robustness, evaluating tradeoffs, testing, validation, and verification, failure, effect, and mode analysis. A survey was prepared and sent out to the participants from all four workshops as well as other robotics faculty, researchers and industry personnel in order to elicit a broader community response. Because one of the biggest challenges in mechatronics and robotics education is the absence of standardized curricula, textbooks, platforms, syllabi, assignments, and learning outcomes, this was a vital part of the process to achieve some level of consensus. This paper presents an introduction to MRE education, related work on existing programs, methods, results of the practical skills survey, and then draws conclusions based upon these results. It aims to create the foundation for standardizing the development of student skills in mechatronics and robotics curricula across institutions, disciplines, majors and minors. The survey was completed by 94 participants and it was clear that there is a consensus that the primary skills students should have upon completion of MRE courses or a program is a broader multidisciplinary systems-level perspective, an ability to problem solve, and an ability to design a system to meet specifications. 
    more » « less