A Scalable Low-Cost-UAV Traffic Network (uNet)
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This article proposes a new Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) operation paradigm to enable a large number of relatively low-cost UAVs to fly beyond-line-of-sight without costly sensing and communication systems or substantial human intervention in individual UAV control. Under current free-flight-like paradigm, wherein a UAV can travel along any route as long as it avoids restricted airspace and altitudes. However, this requires expensive on-board sensing and communication as well as substantial human effort in order to ensure avoidance of obstacles and collisions. The increased cost serves as an impediment to the emergence and development of broader UAV applications. The main contribution of this work is to propose the use of pre-established route network for UAV traffic management, which allows: (i) pre-mapping of obstacles along the route network to reduce the onboard sensing requirements and the associated costs for avoiding such obstacles; and (ii) use of well-developed routing algorithms to select UAV schedules that avoid conflicts. Available GPS-based navigation can be used to fly the UAV along the selected route and time schedule with relatively low added cost, which therefore, reduces the barrier to entry into new UAV-applications market. Finally, this article proposes a new decoupling scheme for conflict-free transitions between edges of the route network at each node of the route network to reduce potential conflicts between UAVs and ensuing delays. A simulation example is used to illustrate the proposed uNet approach.