CSAIL team's system of quadcopters that fly and drive suggest another approach to developing flying cars
Being able to both walk and take flight is typical in nature - many birds, insects, and other animals can do both. If we could program robots with similar versatility, it would open up many possibilities: Imagine machines that could fly into construction areas or disaster zones that aren't near roads and then squeeze through tight spaces on the ground to transport objects or rescue people.
The problem is that robots that are good at one mode of transportation are usually bad at another. Airborne drones are fast and agile, but generally have too limited of a battery life to travel for long distances. Ground vehicles, on the other hand, are more energy efficient, but slower and less mobile.
Researchers from MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) are aiming to develop robots that can both maneuver around on land and take to the skies. In a new paper, the team presented a system of eight quadcopter drones that can fly and drive through a city-like setting with parking spots, no-fly zones, and landing pads.
The ability to both fly and drive is useful in environments with a lot of barriers, since you can fly over ground obstacles and drive under overhead obstacles, says PhD student Brandon Araki, lead author on the paper. Normal drones can't maneuver on the ground at all. A drone with wheels is much more mobile while having only a slight reduction in flying time.
Araki and CSAIL Director Daniela Rus developed the system, along with MIT undergraduate students John Strang, Sarah Pohorecky, and Celine Qiu, and Tobias Naegeli of ETH Zurich's Advanced Interactive Technologies Lab. The team presented their system at IEEE's International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Singapore earlier this month.
How it works
The project builds on Araki's previous work developing a flying monkey robot that crawls, grasps, and flies. While the monkey robot could hop over obstacles and crawl about, there was still no way for it to travel autonomously.
To address this, the team developed various path-planning algorithms aimed at ensuring that the drones don't collide. To make them capable of driving, the team put two small motors with wheels on the bottom of each drone. In simulations, the robots could fly for 90 meters or drive for 252 meters, before their batteries ran out.
Adding the driving component to the drone slightly reduced its battery life, meaning that the maximum distance it could fly decreased 14 percent to about 300 feet. But since driving is still much more efficient than flying, the gain in efficiency from driving more than offsets the relatively small loss in efficiency in flying due to the extra weight.
This work provides an algorithmic solution for large-scale, mixed-mode transportation and shows its applicability to real-world problems, says Jingjin Yu, a computer science professor at Rutgers University who was not involved in the research.
The team also tested the system using everyday materials such as pieces of fabric for roads and cardboard boxes for buildings. They tested eight robots navigating from a starting point to an ending point on a collision-free path, and all were successful.
Rus says that systems like theirs suggest that another approach to creating safe and effective flying cars is not to simply put wings on cars, but to build on years of research in adding driving capabilities to drones.
As we begin to develop planning and control algorithms for flying cars, we are encouraged by the possibility of creating robots with these capabilities at small scale, Rus says. While there are obviously still big challenges to scaling up to vehicles that could actually transport humans, we are inspired by the potential of a future in which flying cars could offer us fast, traffic-free transportation.
Adam Conner-Simons | EurekAlert!
Researchers illuminate the path to a new era of microelectronics
23.04.2018 | Boston University College of Engineering
Researchers achieve HD video streaming at 10,000 times lower power
20.04.2018 | University of Washington
Physicists at the Laboratory for Attosecond Physics, which is jointly run by Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität and the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics, have developed a high-power laser system that generates ultrashort pulses of light covering a large share of the mid-infrared spectrum. The researchers envisage a wide range of applications for the technology – in the early diagnosis of cancer, for instance.
Molecules are the building blocks of life. Like all other organisms, we are made of them. They control our biorhythm, and they can also reflect our state of...
University of Connecticut researchers have created a biodegradable composite made of silk fibers that can be used to repair broken load-bearing bones without the complications sometimes presented by other materials.
Repairing major load-bearing bones such as those in the leg can be a long and uncomfortable process.
Study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces is the outcome of an international effort that included teams from Dresden and Berlin in Germany, and the US.
Scientists at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) together with colleagues from the Helmholtz-Zentrum Berlin (HZB) and the University of Virginia...
Novel highly efficient and brilliant gamma-ray source: Based on model calculations, physicists of the Max PIanck Institute for Nuclear Physics in Heidelberg propose a novel method for an efficient high-brilliance gamma-ray source. A giant collimated gamma-ray pulse is generated from the interaction of a dense ultra-relativistic electron beam with a thin solid conductor. Energetic gamma-rays are copiously produced as the electron beam splits into filaments while propagating across the conductor. The resulting gamma-ray energy and flux enable novel experiments in nuclear and fundamental physics.
The typical wavelength of light interacting with an object of the microcosm scales with the size of this object. For atoms, this ranges from visible light to...
Stable joint cartilage can be produced from adult stem cells originating from bone marrow. This is made possible by inducing specific molecular processes occurring during embryonic cartilage formation, as researchers from the University and University Hospital of Basel report in the scientific journal PNAS.
Certain mesenchymal stem/stromal cells from the bone marrow of adults are considered extremely promising for skeletal tissue regeneration. These adult stem...
13.04.2018 | Event News
12.04.2018 | Event News
09.04.2018 | Event News
23.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
23.04.2018 | Physics and Astronomy
23.04.2018 | Trade Fair News