Noise Regulation in Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Towards Ergonomic Integration in Complex Warehouse Environments

Drone flying in a warehouse

Published October 17, 2017

M. Nouh (MAE), S. Chowdhury (MAE), R. Salvi (CDS), C. Stocking (CDS)

Small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) promise to revolutionize inventory management and materials handling in warehouses, factory floors, and construction sites (a multi-billion-dollar market potential).

Small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) promise to revolutionize inventory management and materials handling in warehouses, factory floors, and construction sites (a multi-billion-dollar market potential). However, their perceived noise (and safety) issues present an important barrier to delivering on this promise. While a few investigations of UAV acoustics exist, the critical understanding of 1) how humans perceive and respond to UAV noise, and 2) the nature of human–UAV interactions in these unstructured environments, is practically non-existent. Moreover, the few existing solutions to mitigating UAV noise impact compromises their aerodynamic/structural performance. 

To address these technical gaps, and thereby facilitate safer and ergonomic integration of UAVs in co-robotic work environments, this project brings together experts from vibration/acoustics, design-optimization/autonomous-systems, and human-cognition/ergonomics. Our approach is to re-design the protective rotor-envelopes using optimized anechoic material and geometry for noise attenuation. This project combines physical and simulated experiments to characterize the acoustic transmission properties, model the UAV acoustic environment, conduct experiments to construct cognitive models of human perception of UAV noise, develop  a virtual robotic simulation environment to study human–UAV interactions, and optimize the design.

The outcomes of this project will both create new capabilities and new inter-disciplinary PI collaborations at UB, along with establishing the basis for longer-term R&D goals of a paradigm shift in “advanced robotics in manufacturing/logistics”, one that is founded on the notion of environment/human-factor-aware autonomous systems.

For additional information on this project, please contact either Dr. Mostafa Nouh (mnouh@buffalo.edu) or Dr. Souma Chowdhury (soumacho@buffalo.edu).