Existing autonomous systems (e.g. UGVs, UAVs) are capable of independently fulfilling predefined missions and goals with the help of their mission-specific equipment. The user specifies the mission via an interface at the associated control station. With the help of modern communication technology, the control center offers the possibility of real-time system monitoring and teleoperation in exceptional situations. However, this system control in the form of the control station acts locally and not across functions or systems, which means that there is no communication between different kinds of systems.
The Operations Department, founded in 2021, is concerned with the question of how the networking and control of different systems at a higher level can make mission fulfillment more precise and efficient. Approaches to this can be found both in the area of the IoT (Internet of Things) and in the architecture of computers as well as their operating systems, from which the name of the department is derived.
The core tasks of the operating system of a computer include knowing the capabilities and possibilities of its hardware components (device management), providing efficient and convenient access to the physical working memory or main memory (memory management) and communication channels for input and output and managing the file system (data management), as well as planning and controlling the operations of processes (process management). In principle, it is thus possible to organize a time-parallel run of several programs on a computer without the processes getting in each other’s way and the processing time of the individual programs increasing significantly.
A very clear and future-oriented example of the application of such an operating system to a network of several autonomous systems is the control of industrial sites such as ports, airports or logistics centers. Up to now, both the control of access and the dispatching of vehicles have been based on human-guided vehicles. In the future, however, unmanned logistics vehicles and autonomization with accompanying digitization of the infrastructure components of operations can be expected in the logistics sector. In order to manage the overflow of information and complex interactions between the individual systems in a structured manner and to fulfill the individual missions simultaneously, a central collection, processing and providing of data collected by the individual systems and infrastructure components, is required. On this basis, planning and control of all processes related to the industrial site can take place from a higher level.
Due to the high system complexity, the large number of different parameters, their possible combinations and a possible multitude of optimization criteria, the use of artificial intelligence and optimization within the operating system is required. For the algorithms and methods provided here, this mass of data represents a great potential for decision-making. Finally, the operating system derives updated mission specifications for the individual systems from the results of the calculations, which are transmitted directly to the respective systems.
In addition, Operations is engaged in the long-term vision of applying such an operating system to urban infrastructures. This goal requires not only technical but also socio-technical approaches that consider humans at the core of the model. An introduction to this topic can be found on page 37.