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Same idea… different approach

While browsing the web looking for potential examples, demonstrations and applications of the main idea behind our project, we stumbled on some good videos. It appears that, so far, few people managed to have at least the AR.Drone following one moving object on the ground, let alone an autonomous robot vehicle. We still did not find anyone using the UAV to help robots maintain a formation – it does certainly not mean that it has not been done or tried though.

Among the rare examples found, the one that is closest to our project has been done at the NASA Langley Research Center. It features a remote-controlled car moving on a flat surface and followed in real-time by the very same AR.Drone we use.


Demonstration of the autonomous tracking of a ground vehicle that is remote-controlled at the NASA Langley Research Center.


This is one of the tasks we have to implement in order to fulfill our project. However, as you may see in the above video, the way of having it working efficiently is different from the idea we wish to develop. There is image analysis but not achieved by the drone alone; the system operates indeed with multiple surrounding and stationary cameras that do motion tracking of both the drone and the vehicle. It works thanks to a Vicon motion capture system that enables such a smooth result with a powerful software.

LARSS (Langley Aeronautics Research Summer Scholars) students worked on this project at this research center last year, helped by NASA scientists. According to a comment, they chose to use many cameras instead of the one embedded on the drone because the latter was not good enough resolution-wise to provide the required accuracy. It may be due to them working with an early prototype though. It will in any case be a good challenge for us to try to achieve what they couldn’t and find ways to get around these problems. We have more time than they had for that, and we can benefit from a still greater community of developers using this platform.

It is anyway great to see that researchers of such well-known places are interested in this kind of projects. It also shows that there is still work that need to be done in this field.


Learn more about it:

The Parrot AR.Drone was put on display at the last NASA Aviation Unleashed Conference, featuring the above-mentioned project, while they also did other experiments involving autonomous movement and obstacle avoidance with the drone. An interesting article regarding the Aviation Unleashed Conference and forecasts about autonomous aviation may also be found here.

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