Autonomous micro helicopters are about to play major roles in tasks like reconnaissance for search and rescue, environment monitoring, security surveillance, inspection, law enforcement, etc. The ability to fly allows easily avoiding obstacles on the ground and to have an excellent bird’s eye view. Therefore flying robots are the logical heir of ground based mobile robots. Their navigational and hovering advantages make them the ideal platform for exploration, mapping and monitoring tasks. If they are further realized in small scale, they can also be used in narrow out- and indoor environment and they represent only a limited risk for the environment and people living in it. However, for such operations today’s systems navigating on GPS information only are not sufficient any more. Fully autonomous operation in cities or other dense environments requires the micro helicopter to fly at low altitude or indoors where GPS signals are often shadowed and to actively explore unknown environments while avoiding collisions and creating maps. This involves a number of challenges on all levels of helicopter design, perception, actuation, control, navigation and power supply that have yet to be solved. Our S&T endeavor proposed in this project will therefore focus on micro helicopter design, visual 3D mapping and navigation, low power communication including range estimation and multi-robot control under environmental constraints. It shall lead to novel micro flying robots that are:
- Inherently safe due to very low weight (< 500g) and appropriate propeller design;
- capable of vision-based fully autonomous navigation and mapping;
- capable of coordinated flight in small swarms in constrained and dense environments.