TechTalks from event: Technical session talks from ICRA 2012

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Control and Planning for UAVs

  • Deploying the Max-Sum Algorithm for Decentralised Coordination and Task Allocation of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles for Live Aerial Imagery Collection Authors: Delle Fave, Francesco Maria; Rogers, Alex; Xu, Zhe; Sukkarieh, Salah; Jennings, Nick
    We introduce a new technique for coordinating teams of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) when deployed to collect live aerial imagery of the scene of a disaster. We define this problem as one of task assignment where the UAVs dynamically coordinate over tasks representing the imagery collection requests. To measure the quality of the assignment of one or more UAVs to a task, we propose a novel utility function which encompasses several constraints, such as the task's importance and the UAVs' battery capacity so as to maximise performance. We then solve the resulting optimisation problem using a fully asynchronous and decentralised implementation of the max-sum algorithm, a well known message passing algorithm previously used only in simulated domains. Finally, we evaluate our approach both in simulation and on real hardware. First, we empirically evaluate our utility and show that it yields a better trade off between the quantity and quality of completed tasks than similar utilities that do not take all the constraints into account. Second, we deploy it on two hexacopters and assess its practical viability in the real world.
  • Mixed-Integer Quadratic Program Trajectory Generation for Heterogeneous Quadrotor Teams Authors: Mellinger, Daniel; Kushleyev, Aleksandr; Kumar, Vijay
    We present an algorithm for the generation of optimal trajectories for teams of heterogeneous quadrotors in three-dimensional environments with obstacles. We formulate the problem using mixed-integer quadratic programs (MIQPs) where the integer constraints are used to enforce collision avoidance. The method allows for different sizes, capabilities, and varying dynamic effects between different quadrotors. Experimental results illustrate the method applied to teams of up to four quadrotors ranging from 65 to 962 grams and 21 to 67 cm in width following trajectories in three-dimensional environments with obstacles with accelerations approaching 1g.
  • Safety Verification of Reactive Controllers for UAV Flight in Cluttered Environments Using Barrier Certificates Authors: Barry, Andrew J.; Majumdar, Anirudha; Tedrake, Russ
    Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) have a so-far untapped potential to operate at high speeds through cluttered environments. Many of these systems are limited by their ad-hoc reactive controllers using simple visual cues like optical flow. Here we consider the problem of formally verifying an output-feedback controller for an aircraft operating in an unknown environment. Using recent advances in sums-of-squares programming that allow for efficient computation of barrier functions, we search for global certificates of safety for the closed-loop system in a given environment. In contrast to previous work, we use rational functions to globally approximate non-smooth dynamics and use multiple barrier functions to guard against more than one obstacle. We expect that these formal verification techniques will allow for the comparison, and ultimately optimization, of reactive controllers for robustness to varying initial conditions and environments.
  • On-board Velocity Estimation and Closed-loop Control of a Quadrotor UAV based on Optical Flow Authors: Grabe, Volker; Buelthoff, Heinrich H.; Robuffo Giordano, Paolo
    Robot vision became a field of increasing importance in micro aerial vehicle robotics with the availability of small and light hardware. While most approaches rely on external ground stations because of the need of high computational power, we will present a full autonomous setup using only on-board hardware. Our work is based on the continuous homography constraint to recover ego-motion from optical flow. Thus we are able to provide an efficient fall back routine for any kind of UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) since we rely solely on a monocular camera and on on-board computation. In particular, we devised two variants of the classical continuous 4-point algorithm and provided an extensive experimental evaluation against a known ground truth. The results show that our approach is able to recover the ego-motion of a flying UAV in realistic conditions and by only relying on the limited on-board computational power. Furthermore, we exploited the velocity estimation for closing the loop and controlling the motion of the UAV online.
  • Visual Terrain Classification by Flying Robots Authors: Khan, Yasir Niaz; Masselli, Andreas; Zell, Andreas
    In this paper we investigate the effectiveness of SURF features for visual terrain classification for outdoor flying robots. A quadrocopter fitted with a single camera is flown over different terrains to take images of the ground below. Each image is divided into a grid and SURF features are calculated at grid intersections. A classifier is then used to learn to differentiate between different terrain types. Classification results of the SURF descriptor are compared with results from other texture descriptors like Local Binary Patterns and Local Ternary Patterns. Six different terrain types are considered in this approcah. Random forests are used for classification on each descriptor. It is shown that SURF features perform better than other descriptors at higher resolutions.
  • Real-Time Decentralized Search with Inter-Agent Collision Avoidance Authors: Gan, Seng Keat; Fitch, Robert; Sukkarieh, Salah
    This paper addresses the problem of coordinating a team of mobile autonomous sensor agents performing a cooperative mission while explicitly avoiding inter-agent collisions in a team negotiation process. Many multi-agent cooperative approaches disregard the potential hazards between agents, which are an important aspect to many systems and especially for airborne systems. In this work, team negotiation is performed using a decentralized gradient-based optimization approach whereas safety distance constraints are specifically designed and handled using Lagrangian multiplier methods. The novelty of our work is the demonstration of a decentralized form of inter-agent collision avoidance in the loop of the agents' real-time group mission optimization process, where the algorithm inherits the properties of performing its original mission while minimizing the probability of inter-agent collisions. Explicit constraint gradient formulation is derived and used to enhance computational advantage and solution accuracy. The effectiveness and robustness of our algorithm has been verified in a simulated environment by coordinating a team of UAVs searching for targets in a large-scale environment.