Mission Computers for UAV & Ground Vehicles

Manufacturers of mission computers for autonomous and unmanned systems including UAV (aerial unmanned vehicles) and UGV (unmanned ground vehicles)
Overview Mission Computers for UAV & Ground Vehicles
By Mike Ball Last updated: January 22nd, 2024

Mission computers are embedded computing devices that provide UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles), UGVs (unmanned ground vehicles) and other robotic vehicles with specialized processing capabilities that help operate the system.

The mission computer is programmed with flight plans and other critical parameters, and is connected to and manages the flight controller, as well as other subsystems such as communications, sensors and payloads.

Drone Mission Computers

Drone mission computers are available in a wide variety of form factors. Selecting the most suitable mission computer for a specific platform or application may involve balancing SWaP (size, weight and power) characteristics with capabilities such as cooling and advanced processing.

Ground Vehicle Mission Computing

Mission computers for ground and autonomous vehicles can play a significant role in navigation and environment perception. They may include collision and obstacle avoidance, path planning, and adaptive control functionality, and are often designed with redundancy to bolster reliability.

Form Factors

Relio R1 Mission Computer by Sealevel Systems

Relio R1 Mission Computer by Sealevel Systems

Mission computer form factors at the board- or card-level include COM Express, OpenVPX and PC/104.

Embedded computing devices may also be enclosed in rugged housing to withstand harsh environmental conditions such as extremes of shock, vibration, temperature, and EMI/RFI (electromagnetic interference/radio frequency interference). Rugged mission computers may have an ingress protection rating such as IP65 or IP67 to protect them against moisture and dust.

I/O and Removable Storage Capabilities

NRU-52S Rugged Edge Mission Computer

NRU-52S Rugged Edge Mission Computer by Neousys Technology

Mission computers may have a range of I/O capabilities to allow them to interface with many different flight controllers, sensors and other peripherals. These include USB, Ethernet, CAN, serial RS-232/422/485, UART, as well as military and aerospace standard connectors such as MIL-DTL-38999 and ARINC 429. They may also have removable storage capabilities such as hard drives or SD cards.

The most advanced UAV mission computers may include dedicated AI (artificial intelligence) modules that provide the additional processing power required for advanced applications such as autonomous navigation, obstacle detection and avoidance, target identification and tracking, and other intelligent analytics.

Drone and unmanned systems mission computers for military and defense platforms may need to be designed to meet mil-spec and avionics standards such as DO-160, DO-254 and MIL-STD-810.

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