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Draper Laboratory


555 Technology Square
Cambridge, MA 02139-3563

Organization's Description:

Over the past two decades, Draper has extended our capabilities in autonomy by developing dynamic, real-time, mission-level autonomy for unmanned systems, becoming a world leader in autonomous mission control. Our autonomous mission controllers are built on the foundation of a Draper-developed Autonomy Architecture Reference Model (AARM) and software framework. This dynamic, real-time mission controller framework enables substantial improvements in mission operational tempo, autonomous vehicle survivability, and operations and support costs for air, land, undersea, and space applications. The Laboratory provides several services to its sponsors, including analysis of autonomous system requirements, trade studies to select the appropriate level of autonomy, autonomous system architecture development and design using our AARM framework, and prototype development, demonstration, and evaluation.

The Laboratory also has developed new autonomous modes for unmanned systems, including an agile maneuvering guidance and control capability for threat and obstacle avoidance. Over the last decade, the Laboratory has developed a strong capability in micro-scale robotics with the creation of several special-purpose robots for missions requiring operations in difficult terrain.

In the area of autonomous mission management, Draper’s mission controllers provide the ability to plan missions dynamically, command subsystems within the vehicle management system, generate situation awareness, adapt to unanticipated events, and monitor systems and diagnose their failures. The Laboratory has designed autonomous mission controllers and vehicle management systems for a broad variety of military applications in virtually all operational domains. Our autonomous mission controllers use man-machine collaborative autonomy, which allows systems to be implemented with variable levels of autonomy. Another component of Draper’s autonomy capability includes the ability to create situation awareness through sensing and perception technologies that map the location of the vehicle with respect to targets, threats, terrain, and obstacles. In addition, the Laboratory has designed and implemented many algorithms and techniques for learning-augmented control, estimation, and failure detection and isolation.

Draper has developed autopilot systems for numerous vehicles, including spacecraft, aircraft, submarines, guided parafoils, and weapons systems. The various modes of these autopilot systems are used by our mission controllers to carry out mission objectives. The recent development of our agile maneuvering capability enables the real-time creation of complex trajectories, while maintaining vehicle control system stability. This ability permits autonomous vehicles to operate in substantially more complex environments than was previously possible. The Laboratory is currently extending this capability to permit human inspired tactics to be embedded in autonomous guidance systems to reduce operator workload and improve mission effectiveness and vehicle survivability.

Many autonomous vehicle missions require small robotic systems that can operate in complex, difficult terrain. Draper has developed numerous special-purpose robotic vehicles, including throw-able wheeled and rotary legged robots, a micro UAV capable of withstanding high-g gun launches, a ducted fan micro air vehicle with variable pitch control, robots for explosive ordnance disposal, and a snake-like robot for search and rescue operations in rubble-strewn environments.


Autonomous Vehicles Laboratory

C4I Laboratory

Modeling and Simulation Laboratory


Satellite rendezvous

Uninhabited Combat Air Vehicle Demonstrations

Unmanned Armed Combat Rotorcraft

Tactical robots

Micro air vehicles

Autonomous minehunting and mapping

Technologies / Capabilities

Air, land, and sea robotic vehicles

Vehicle management systems

Dynamic, real-time mission planning systems

Agile maneuvering

Man-machine collaborative autonomy

Phone: 617 258 1000
Fax: 617 258 1131