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Robust Visual-Aided Autonomous Takeoff, Tracking, and Landing of a Small UAV on a Moving Landing Platform for Life-Long Operation

1
Computer Vision & Artificial Intelligence Group, Technical University Munich, Boltzmannstrasse 3, 85748 Garching, Germany
2
Univ. Grenoble Alpes, INRIA, Grenoble INP, 38000 Grenoble, France
3
Information Technology Group, Wageningen University & Research, 6708 PB Wageningen, The Netherlands
4
Centro de Automática y Robótica (UPM-CSIC), Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, José Gutiérrez Abascal, 2, 28006 Madrid, Spain
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Appl. Sci. 2019, 9(13), 2661; https://doi.org/10.3390/app9132661
Received: 31 May 2019 / Revised: 16 June 2019 / Accepted: 25 June 2019 / Published: 29 June 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Multi-Robot Systems: Challenges, Trends and Applications)
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Abstract

Robot cooperation is key in Search and Rescue (SaR) tasks. Frequently, these tasks take place in complex scenarios affected by different types of disasters, so an aerial viewpoint is useful for autonomous navigation or human tele-operation. In such cases, an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) in cooperation with an Unmanned Ground Vehicle (UGV) can provide valuable insight into the area. To carry out its work successfully, such as multi-robot system requires the autonomous takeoff, tracking, and landing of the UAV on the moving UGV. Furthermore, it needs to be robust and capable of life-long operation. In this paper, we present an autonomous system that enables a UAV to take off autonomously from a moving landing platform, locate it using visual cues, follow it, and robustly land on it. The system relies on a finite state machine, which together with a novel re-localization module allows the system to operate robustly for extended periods of time and to recover from potential failed landing maneuvers. Two approaches for tracking and landing are developed, implemented, and tested. The first variant is based on a novel height-adaptive PID controller that uses the current position of the landing platform as the target. The second one combines this height-adaptive PID controller with a Kalman filter in order to predict the future positions of the platform and provide them as input to the PID controller. This facilitates tracking and, mainly, landing. Both the system as a whole and the re-localization module in particular have been tested extensively in a simulated environment (Gazebo). We also present a qualitative evaluation of the system on the real robotic platforms, demonstrating that our system can also be deployed on real robotic platforms. For the benefit of the community, we make our software open source. View Full-Text
Keywords: robust autonomous landing; unmanned aerial vehicle; unmanned ground vehicle; multi-robot systems; Kalman filter; PID controller; re-localization module robust autonomous landing; unmanned aerial vehicle; unmanned ground vehicle; multi-robot systems; Kalman filter; PID controller; re-localization module
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Palafox, P.R.; Garzón, M.; Valente, J.; Roldán, J.J.; Barrientos, A. Robust Visual-Aided Autonomous Takeoff, Tracking, and Landing of a Small UAV on a Moving Landing Platform for Life-Long Operation. Appl. Sci. 2019, 9, 2661.

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