The Army is in need of new technology and platforms that will
enhance tactical situational awareness in urban and complex terrain by
enabling the autonomous operation of a collaborative ensemble of
multifunctional, mobile microsystems. This goal will be realized
through fundamental advancements by the MAST alliance, with the
microelectronics team providing advances in: sensing, processing,
communications, microdevices and integration, packaging, and systems
architectures. This will be accomplished by developing and
demonstrating innovative technologies in these areas with a
budget of $12.5M of which $9.9M has been committted by the
sponsor and $2.6M is provided as cost sharing by the University of
Our proposed testbed consists of a flying autonomous
sensor which has been patterned after a bat. Bats have a highly-attuned
echolocation sense providing high-resolution navigation and sensing
ability even in the dark, just as our sensor must be able to do. With
advanced, high-power solar cells on the wings, and a complete sensory
package on the nose, it contains processing and power storage within
its small body. The five major subsystems of this platform are shown in
the figure below. While not shown,
is a cross-cutting theme, central to each of these subsystems, and is
a critical area of research that we will focus on during this project.
Note that while we have chosen a bat as a suggested platform, the
research and technology described here is applicable to a wide variety
of other air, ground, or water platforms.
The five thrust areas of research shown in the figure above entail novel electronic circuit/processing architecture, novel materials for communication and power-efficient sensing, low-power communication and networked response, assisted and autonomous navigation, as well as power generation and management. Revolutionary multidisciplinary research based on bio-inspired and bio-mimetic approaches are proposed to achieve breakthroughs in military relevant system and sub-system specifications such as size, weight, power consumption, and sensitivity.
The team we have assembled has many years of experience in developing advanced microsensor systems, including: inertial, airborne chemicals, radiation, active electromagnetic (radar), and many others. Its expertise spans a wide range of disciplines from biology to RF MEMS, from radar to inertial sensing, and from 3D packaging to VLSI. Our team has also developed many different high-performance packaging systems, enabling each sensor to be insulated from environmental hazards and variability, as well as enabling the assembly of multiple systems within a very small package with very short interconnects between the different systems.
Often times the direct results of basic research are not compatible with the overall system architecture as regards to cost, robustness, platform integration, scalability, and sustainability. We will include flexibility into our subsystems by requiring parametric design models and procedures for all subsystems which at the end will enable us to perform tradeoff studies. These activities will be coordinated with the Integrator and other consortium members as many of our sensors and processing tools will be exploited for the proper operation and guidance of the platform.
Michigan's own in-house fabrication facilities will enable much if not all the research proposed here to be carried out in-house. The teaming with the Berkeley and New Mexico groups enhances our capabilities in RF MEMS technology and Quantum-dot solar cells, both key to a workable future sensing platform. Our team has also had a successful history of interaction with ARL and DARPA over the years, including the Fedlabs program, the latest ARL CTAs, and many MURIs. Combined with their many years of experience in technology transfer, this team has the experience, the knowledge, and the technology that will ensure success in this project.