Unmanned systems are complex combinations of technology assembled together to allow humans to perform activities from a different location. This can be as simple as flying and filming the view from several feet above them to being able to support military or research missions in other parts of the world. What allows these tasks to be possible is not just the unmanned vehicle, but the ground control station (GCS). No matter what the domain, the GCS is what connects the operator to the vehicle. In this paper an in-depth analysis will be provided for a GCS that controls an unmanned system from the maritime domain. This analysis will include the hardware, software, and user interface of the data depiction and presentation strategy of the system. The analysis will also include any issues or challenges that operators currently deal with, as well as recommended changes or modifications that can be done to the system to improve its functionality in the maritime environment.
The Gladius is a commercially available underwater system equipped with either a HD 1080P or 4K camera for personal or research purposes (Gladius Underwater Drone, n.d.). The vehicle is capable of diving up to 100 meters for up to 3 hours (Gladius Underwater Drone, n.d.). The system is equipped with four thrusters and is neutrally buoyant so that it does not float or sink, leaving the operator full control of how the system moves in the water (Gladius Underwater Drone, n.d.).
The GCS for most unmanned systems is a computer that allows the operator to control the vehicle remotely. The main components of the Gladius GCS are the remote control that comes with the system and the operator’s cellular device (Gladius Underwater Drone, n.d.). The remote is similar to controls for a video game console, especially the Nintendo Switch, since it slides apart to allow the operator to secure their cellular device into the system to view the live video feed from the vehicle (Gladius Underwater Drone, n.d.). The operator is able to control the Gladius through two joy sticks: one controls the direction and speed of the vessel while the other controls the camera direction (Gladius Underwater Drone, n.d.). The controller also allows the operator to control the two 1200 lumen LED lights individually by user the buttons at the top of the controller (Gladius Underwater Drone, n.d.). In order to be able to communicate with the underwater system, two other components are needed: the tether and the buoy (Gladius Underwater Drone, n.d.). These two components allow the system to send data and images back to the GCS as well as receive commands from the controller using long range WiFi communication signals (Gladius Underwater Drone, n.d.).
The GCS Software for the Gladius is a smartphone app that can be downloaded to most android and iOS devices. This program not only allows the operator to view and control the functions of the onboard camera, but also be able to save the live video feed and still photos to the cellular device instead of the onboard SD card (Gladius Underwater Drone, n.d.). The screen also displays current information of the system including: compass heading, horizon tilt, foreward and aft pitch, depth, buoyancy status and battery life (Gladius Underwater Drone, 2017).
Issues and Recommendations
The vehicle is one of the first commercially available systems that is affordable compared to other options, but there are a few issues with the system that could be easily remedied. Firstly, there is no alert notification on the ground controller. This alert could be used for several things including: obstacle avoidance, weather, and tide warnings. Part of the solution would be to equip additional sensors to the system for obstacle avoidance or on the buoy for weather updates and warnings. The second part of the solution is to include the method of alert for the operator. In addition to adding an alert notification into the software so that it shows up onto the screen, it would be recommended to add vibration sensors to the control so that the operator feels the notification. This secondary method ensures that the operator receives the notification in order to perform the operation needed to save the system.
Gladius Underwater Drone. (2017, April 12). Gladius Depth Test [Video File]. Youtube. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmuGMHIvcsQ
Gladius Underwater Drone. (n.d.). Gladius Submersible Underwater Drone. Indiegogo. Retrieved from https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/gladius-submersible-underwater-drone-technology#/