Using unmanned aircraft systems (UASs) as sensor platforms is a well-studied and well-implemented area. UASs have even been used to place sensors on the ground or in water. However, there are some instances where placing a sensor on top of the ground is not sufficient. Placing a sensor into the ground is necessary for things like accurate seismic measurements or soil moisture content measurements. We have developed a system that is capable of drilling a sensor into the ground via an auger mechanism and the weight of the UAS. The system has autonomous safe-site selection, and autonomous drilling and emplacement capabilities.
The vehicle is capable of folding up and being carried a location near the deployment area by a transport vehicle. Waterproofing improves robustness of the vehicle against harsh environments. Upon successful emplacement the vehicle can depart the area. Most recently we have adapted the emplacement mechanism to a Vertical Takeoff and Landing (VTOL) fixed-wing aircraft to enhance deployment range.
The system allows for fully automated deployment of sensors in remote, hard to reach places. The drilling mechanism can be matched to the soil or material type allowing sensors to be deployed in a variety of soil and ice conditions.
This work was funded by USSTRATCOM FA460012-D-9000.