Flying robots get off the ground

Jun 17, 2013
Flying robots get off the ground
Credit: Shutterstock

Attaching a platform to a high-rise building to evacuate people in an emergency, or creating a landing stage for an aircraft on uneven terrain - these are just two areas in which flying robots could have a huge impact - potentially saving lives.

The ARCAS ('Aerial Robotics Cooperative Assembly System') team is 18 months into a 4-year project to develop such machines. The team is working on the first-ever cooperative free- system able to assemble and construct structures in inaccessible sites, including in space.

Advances in five key areas are needed to get the robots up and flying: the helicopters or quadrotor systems themselves, motion control for transportation and assembly; robot perception; cooperation between multiple robots; and tools to allow .

The team has already developed prototypes. The first is a quadcopter with a and a 'hand' designed to grasp cylindrical objects. Keeping the arm's weight as low as possible was a priority; the result is minimal impact on the quadcopter's stability.

The second prototype is an electrical helicopter fitted with a gripper mounted on an arm able to bend in any direction.

Each robot will be equipped with a manipulator able to grasp objects. The team is working on motion control techniques for this , which must include coordinating the control of multiple flying robots grasping the same object during a construction task.

Perception is key to any task-oriented robot. For the ARCAS robots, this includes , fast 3D model generation, simultaneous localisation and mapping by multiple , accurate 3D positioning and tracking so that can be guided, and cooperative perception for assembly - the robots must be able to work together.

Cooperative planning will ensure safety during the simultaneous operation of multiple flying robots during assembly, disassembly or inspection tasks, while human operators must be able to intervene in this autonomous perception, planning and control when necessary. They will do this using virtual reality haptics - technology operated through touch.

Once the concepts, methodologies and algorithms are in place, they will be tested in three different ways. Autonomous quadrotors and an integrated system for positioning will assessed for basic manipulation and assembly functions. These tests will take place indoors. More advanced manipulation devices with integrated force sensors mounted on autonomous helicopters will be tested outdoors. And multiple robot arms will be used to simulate free-flying objects manipulating objects in space.

The project is expected to lay the foundations for designing and developing cooperating flying robots with various physical characteristics that could be used in a range of applications. ARCAS' industrial partners will be the first to adopt the project's technologies, providing a path to commercialisation, whether in inspection, maintenance, repair, satellite servicing or structure construction.

Explore further: Future US Navy: Robotic sub-hunters, deepsea pods

More information: www.arcas-project.eu/

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Micro helicopters leave the nest

Apr 24, 2012

Within the framework of the EU project sFly, researchers at ETH Zurich have developed a new type of flying robot that can be navigated using only on-board cameras and a miniature computer. The micro helicopters ...

Recommended for you

Future US Navy: Robotic sub-hunters, deepsea pods

14 hours ago

The robotic revolution that transformed warfare in the skies will soon extend to the deep sea, with underwater spy "satellites," drone-launching pods on the ocean floor and unmanned ships hunting submarines.

Festo has BionicANTs communicating by the rules for tasks

Mar 27, 2015

Germany-based automation company Festo, focused on technologies for tasks, turns to nature for inspiration, trying to take the cues from how nature performs tasks so efficiently. "Whether it's energy efficiency, ...

Virtual robotization for human limbs

Mar 26, 2015

Recent advances in computer gaming technology allow for an increasingly immersive gaming experience. Gesture input devices, for example, synchronise a player's actions with the character on the screen. Entertainment ...

Robots on reins could be the 'eyes' of firefighters

Mar 25, 2015

Researchers at King's College London have developed revolutionary reins that enable robots to act like guide dogs, which could enable that firefighters moving through smoke-filled buildings could save vital ...

Robot revolution will change world of work

Mar 24, 2015

Robots will fundamentally change the shape of the workforce in the next decade but many industries will still need a human touch, a QUT Future of Work Conference has heard.

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.