Collaborative Aerial Robots
Small-scale aerial robots, such as quadrotors, can be used for several applications, for example, to support humans in disaster response with up-to-date aerial images. Several research projects have been launched worldwide in the past years to explore the design challenges of such unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) systems.
The goal of the project team in Klagenfurt is to develop a platform for systems that involve multiple, collaborating aerial robots. The small-scale UAVs have sophisticated onboard controllers to achieve flight stability. They are equipped with an integrated GPS receiver, on-board sensors and embedded processing, and wireless communication capabilities, which allow them to collect and deliver real-time sensing data (such as still images) while flying over a certain area of interest.
Since 2008, Lakeside Labs has worked on integrating self-organization principles into the design of collaborative multi-UAV systems. One of the main applications of interest is capturing an overview aerial image of a given area in order to support first responders in disaster management. "One can describe this as Google Earth in real time," project leader Bernhard Rinner explains. The basic operation starts with defining the areas of interest on an electronic map which is used to compute routes for the individual UAVs (mission planning). The UAVs then fly over the area of interest and acquire images. The images are sent to the ground station (networking) and mosaicked to a large overview image (sensed data analysis).
"The developed system has been tested in several scenarios and it proved to work well under realistic conditions," researcher Vera Mersheeva says.