Tag Archives: Autonomous

Drones at Home

March 26th, 2014 | Robot
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With eight arms spanning less than a yard, a German MikroKopter provides a stable camera platform for under $5,000.

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The images above are from a recent lead story in the National Geographic Magazine titled, Unmanned Flight. Now that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have more or less come to a close, there is a lot of discussion underway concerning drones’ role in society. Needless to say, they have been used extensively overseas, but whether they can make a smooth transition to civilian life is unknown.

“The U.S. has deployed more than 11,000 military drones… They carry out a wide variety of missions while saving money and American lives. Within a generation they could replace most manned military aircraft, says John Pike, a defense expert at the think tank GlobalSecurity.org. Pike suspects that the F-35 Lightning II, now under development by Lockheed Martin, might be “the last fighter with an ejector seat, and might get converted into a drone itself.”

I think one exciting use for drone technology would be to provide internet to locations in the world without online access. Other possible civilian applications include weather monitoring, traffic control, and package delivery.

“If the FAA relaxes its rules, says Mark Brown, the civilian market for drones—and especially small, low-cost, tactical drones—could soon dwarf military sales, which in 2011 totaled more than three billion dollars.”

Stay tuned, apparently the FAA is expected to integrate drones into American skies by 2015.

Photographer Joe McNally captured the images you see above. You can find more of his work here.

-RSB

Quadrocopters Play Catch With a Stick

February 23rd, 2013 | Robot

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Quadrotor Design

The cross-shaped cut-outs are used for easy attachment to the vehicle.

We’ve seen Quadrocopters swarming like space invaders, playing the James Bond theme music, and now, they’re playing catch with a stick.  This new feat was accomplished by Dario Brescianini, a student at ETH Zurich’s Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control, for his Masters Thesis project. The video starts out with one quadrocopter balancing an inverted pendulum on its platform, and then it proceeds to flip the stick over to its friend, who catches it with ease.  It’s really quite remarkable.

Learning the dynamics of the inverted pendulum is commonplace in introductory Engineering courses, but applying it to a flying robot presents a whole new set of challenges.  To complete this task, the team first constructed a 2-D mathematical model of the system to understand at what angles and speed the robot would need to fly in order to catapult the stick toward its partner.  Then, they physically tested their model, made the appropriate adjustments, and restarted the process all over again.  This sort of iterative design can be very effective.  In a sense, it’s a method of fine-tuning the results until you get the perfect outcome.

Quadrotor Shock Absorber

The shock absorber at the end of the pendulum is a balloon filled with flour

Here’s what Markus Hehn (one of Dario’s supervisors) had to say:

“This was a really fun project to work on. We started off with some back-of-the-envelope calculations, wondering whether it would even be physically possible to throw and catch a pendulum. This told us that achieving this maneuver would really push the dynamic capabilities of the system.

As it turned out, it is probably the most challenging task we’ve had our quadrocopters do. With significantly less than one second to measure the pendulum flight and get the catching vehicle in place, it’s the combination of mathematical models with real-time trajectory generation, optimal control, and learning from previous iterations that allowed us to implement this.”

Read more at Robohub.

-RSB

Autonomous Cars Are Coming

March 1st, 2012 | Robot

March 1st (today!) is a very important day for the future of autonomous vehicles.  For the first time ever, these self-driving cars will be able to legally drive in the United States.  A lengthy campaign by Google has led to new provisions in the state of Nevada which allow for a new kind of robot driver’s license.  Yes, you read that correctly, a ROBOT driver’s license!  A red license plate will be the only mark that these cars are not actually being driven by humans.

With over 50,000 lives lost to careless driving in the United States each year, this a huge step to ensuring the safety of people everywhere.  Hopping in your car is probably the most dangerous thing I do every day, so I, personally, welcome this technology with open arms.

I can’t believe the Google car has already logged almost 200,000 miles on the streets without incident.

-RSB

[via Singularity Hub]

Quadrotors Now Play Music

February 29th, 2012 | Robot

Robot Quadrotors Perform James Bond Theme

You may have seen the previous video of the Robotic Swarm that I posted a few weeks ago, well the GRASP Lab at UPenn is at it again.  And now the robots play music… They premiered the James Bond theme song shown above at the TED2012 Conference in Long Beach, California today, and it was a hit.

And as before, these robots are completely autonomous, meaning humans are not controlling them; instead, they run on computer programs designed to play the song.

It will only be a matter of time before you see these flying down your local streets patrolling traffic and chasing down criminals.

-RSB

The Robotic Swarm

February 1st, 2012 | Robot

Check out this swarm of flying nano-quadrators developed by the robotics team from University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP Lab.  It is truly eerie/amazing to see the team of robots jetting around through the air in perfect formation.  And it seems only a matter of time before you’ll find these outfitted with cameras roaming the city streets or maybe with machine guns patrolling a war zone.  They can fly in 3-dimensions and even avoid obstacles.  I’m impressed!

I would also like to add that this robotic swarm has a Space Invaders/Galaga feel to it.  I’m seeing a real-world version of these games in the near future!

-RSB

[via i09]