The ability to fly over land that is not easily accessible allows the UAS to can carry out and repeat detailed real-time agricultural and environmental inspections. Whether it’s tracking insect infestations or seasonal yield, the UAS assists in crop and environmental management by allowing farmers and resource officials to observe, measure, and react to variables.
UASs provide an airborne safety and trouble-shooting solution for the energy industry with their ability to affordably capture new views of landscapes containing oil fields and coal mines to gauge land conditions and monitor potential as energy resources. Through unmanned surveillance, they allow greater and safer accessibility to transmission lines, solar and wind generation units, offshore platforms, oil derricks, and pipelines to evaluate for leaks, erosion, or significant damaging conditions.
From daily traffic to harsh environmental elements, bridges endure much wear and tear over a lifetime. Without cranes or scaffolding, the UAS can safely and efficiently inspect bridges and other hard-to-reach infrastructure such as cell towers and dams. A deployed system can assess structure conditions remotely and identify issues such as surface damage, corrosion or breaches.
The UAS plays a vital role in critical missions related to natural and manmade disasters. It enables first-responders to fulfill human needs at the most personal level by reaching and analyzing affected areas and individuals more easily and more efficiently than other means can. UASs can be positioned to survey damage, locate stranded and injured victims, and facilitate emergency management strategies.
Able to carry out missions without risking human life, the UAS supports greater day-to-day security. Security forces can deploy the UAS to provide tactical surveillance and tracking to protect the US homeland, key installations, and borders. These capabilities can be critical in near–real-time security situations such as accident and incidence response.
UASRC uses ORNL'S core computational capabilities to help solve problems of national importance ranging from science and energy to healthcare and medicine to national security and business intelligence. We provide systems engineering, data collection and analysis, data visualization, cyber security, and data management and delivery. By leveraging the Lab's ability to efficiently capture, analyze, and steward large volumes of data, UASRC maximizes its power to understand real-world challenges in real time.
ORNL’s battery technology research focuses on extending battery life and range, reducing battery size, and improving cost savings and safety for the consumer. Partnering with industry, the lab applies its expertise in electrochemical engineering, materials characterization, materials processing, and materials and systems simulation to identify performance limitations and develop innovative technologies for the next generation of batteries. With access to these R&D capabilities, UASRC can analyze every aspect of battery production—from raw materials to finished components—to devise better energy storage technologies for improved performance and longevity.
The Department of Energy’s Manufacturing Demonstration Facility at ORNL provides industry access to experts and technology in materials synthesis, characterization, and process technology in areas related to additive manufacturing, composites and carbon fiber, roll-to-roll processing, magnetic field processing, low-temperature materials synthesis, battery manufacturing. With access to these capabilities, UASRC has the power to develop and test novel materials to improve and increase performance and durability.
Through the UASRC, industry can tap into ORNL expertise in developing advanced autonomous navigation capabilities for fixed-wing and vertical takeoff and landing platforms. Research areas include autonomous takeoff and landing, collision avoidance, indoor navigation, and precision landing. ORNL expertise in next-generation UAS communication systems includes lightweight, ultra-small footprint satellite-based communication; auto-forming mesh networking; cellular-based communications; and secure communication.
ORNL has strong collaborations with engine manufacturers to develop new innovative technologies which include unique diagnostic tools, modeling, improved combustion processes and controls, and improved thermal management to advance engine development, optimize and integrate hybrid and electric drive systems, and improve durability. To advance platform technology, UASRC can use the lab’s expertise in fuels, combustion analysis, vehicle systems operation, power conversion, and materials development to improve UAS performance.
ORNL’s integrated approach to sensor system development incorporates the lab’s expertise in sensor technologies, airborne and ground sampling of particulates and gases, image and signal processing, machine learning, and microelectronics to enable more significant and precise measurements and data collection. Using these capabilities, UASRC can design, create, and improve sensing platforms for infrastructure inspection, agriculture and energy exploration, and national security assessment. The information collected from these platforms can be used to generate new, comprehensive libraries of usable data for various domains.
ORNL is working on advanced scalable power electronics and electric machines for electric drive systems in addition to wired and wireless charging solutions. The electric drive component prototypes show performance at a higher efficiency with high power density and specific power. On the wireless charging side, recent research results show that the range of UAVs can be extended by wirelessly scavenging power from the transmission lines for line inspection or using charging pads along the way for the UAVs to hop from one to other flying long distances limited only by number of charger pads.
ORNL pushes the boundaries of research to help the nation address current and anticipated challenges with deep expertise, state-of-the-art facilities, and world-class—often unique—resources. With an aggressive partnerships program designed to provide technology-based solutions to organizations ranging from startups to Fortune 100 companies to academic institutions, ORNL is committed to an outcome that creates win-win opportunities for the external organization as well as the laboratory. There are a range of mechanisms that allow companies to access federally developed technology and capabilities, including the following:
Cooperative Research and Development Agreement
Technology Licensing Agreement
Materials Transfer Agreement
Memorandum of Understanding
Nonfederal Work for Others Agreement
User Facility Agreement
Agreements for Commercializing Technology
Technical Assistance Agreement
Small Business Innovation Research
Small Business Technology Transfer
Small Business Vouchers Advanced Manufacturing Office Technical Collaboration
Rick Lusk is the leader of the Data System Sciences and Engineering Group in the Computing and Computational Sciences Directorate at ORNL. With more than 30 years of professional experience, he is an expert in designing and planning integrated technology platforms and managing their creation and transformation into comprehensive, authoritative, and intuitive support systems.
Before joining the lab, Lusk designed and developed multiple complex strategic technology, operation, and marketing plans for private sector and government agencies, including MCI International, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense. A former US Marine Corps officer, he led several technology and communication endeavors—including projects for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency—as well as serving in military liaison missions overseas and briefing several heads of state.
Lusk holds a BS in communications from the University of Idaho and an MBA from Boston University. He is a graduate of the National Defense University Advanced Management Program and is a federally certified enterprise architect and chief information officer.
Peter Fuhr is a distinguished scientist in the Electrical and Electronics Systems Research Division in the Energy and Environmental Sciences Directorate at ORNL. For more than 30 years, he has concentrated on industrial wireless, sensors, and secure systems, working as a NASA space optical physicist, university professor, serial entrepreneur, and laboratory researcher. Fuhr’s principal research and development work focuses on secure communications, sensors, multidisciplinary applications, and control systems.
Recognized as a pioneer in the field of networked sensor systems for structures, Fuhr has embedded sensors into various frameworks around the world, ranging from buildings and dams to airplanes and hot air balloons to nuclear power plant containment vessels. He has deployed wireless systems into multiple environments, including industrial, agricultural, and aquatic settings. Fuhr’s most recent research focuses on optimizing the use of sensors and systems for environmental monitoring and exploring the intricacies of printed electronics through additive manufacturing.
Fuhr holds BS degrees in physics and mathematics from Beloit College and an MSE and a PhD in electrical engineering from the Johns Hopkins University. He has authored more than 800 technical papers and presentations and is a recipient of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Research.
Oak Ridge National Laboratory is managed by UT-Battelle for the Department of Energy