Reliable deployment of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in cluttered unknown environments requires accurate sensors for obstacle avoidance. Such a requirement limits the usage of cheap and micro-scale vehicles with constrained payload capacity if industrial-grade reliability and precision are required. This paper investigates the possibility of offloading the necessity to carry heavy and expensive obstacle sensors to another member of the UAV team while preserving the desired obstacle avoidance capability. A novel cooperative guidance framework offloading the obstacle sensing requirements from a minimalistic secondary UAV to a superior primary UAV is proposed. The primary UAV constructs a dense occupancy map of the environment and plans collision-free paths for both UAVs to ensure reaching the desired secondary UAV's goal. The primary UAV guides the secondary UAV to follow the planned path while tracking the UAV using Light Detection and Ranging (LiDAR)-based relative localization. The proposed approach was verified in real-world experiments with a heterogeneous team of a 3D LiDAR-equipped primary UAV and a camera-equipped secondary UAV moving autonomously through unknown cluttered Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS)-denied environments with the proposed framework running completely on board the UAVs.
This letter describes a method for autonomous aerial cinematography with distributed lighting by a team of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Although camera-carrying multi-rotor helicopters have become commonplace in cinematography, their usage is limited to scenarios with sufficient natural light or of lighting provided by static artificial lights. We propose to use a formation of unmanned aerial vehicles as a tool for filming a target under illumination from various directions, which is one of the fundamental techniques of traditional cinematography. We decompose the multi-UAV trajectory optimization problem to tackle non-linear cinematographic aspects and obstacle avoidance at separate stages, which allows us to re-plan in real time and react to changes in dynamic environments. The performance of our method has been evaluated in realistic simulation scenarios and field experiments, where we show how it increases the quality of the shots and that it is capable of planning safe trajectories even in cluttered environments.
* IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, vol. 6, no. 4, pp.
A Reflectance Transformation Imaging technique (RTI) realized by multi-rotor Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) with a focus on deployment in difficult to access buildings is presented in this letter. RTI is a computational photographic method that captures a surface shape and color of a subject and enables its interactive re-lighting from any direction in a software viewer, revealing details that are not visible with the naked eye. The input of RTI is a set of images captured by a static camera, each one under illumination from a different known direction. We present an innovative approach applying two multi-rotor UAVs to perform this scanning procedure in locations that are hardly accessible or even inaccessible for people. The proposed system is designed for its safe deployment within real-world scenarios in historical buildings with priceless historical value.
* IEEE Robotics and Automation Letters, vol. 5, no. 2, pp.
This paper reports on the state of the art in underground SLAM by discussing different SLAM strategies and results across six teams that participated in the three-year-long SubT competition. In particular, the paper has four main goals. First, we review the algorithms, architectures, and systems adopted by the teams; particular emphasis is put on lidar-centric SLAM solutions (the go-to approach for virtually all teams in the competition), heterogeneous multi-robot operation (including both aerial and ground robots), and real-world underground operation (from the presence of obscurants to the need to handle tight computational constraints). We do not shy away from discussing the dirty details behind the different SubT SLAM systems, which are often omitted from technical papers. Second, we discuss the maturity of the field by highlighting what is possible with the current SLAM systems and what we believe is within reach with some good systems engineering. Third, we outline what we believe are fundamental open problems, that are likely to require further research to break through. Finally, we provide a list of open-source SLAM implementations and datasets that have been produced during the SubT challenge and related efforts, and constitute a useful resource for researchers and practitioners.
* 21 pages including references. This survey paper is submitted to IEEE
Transactions on Robotics for pre-approval
We present a field report of CTU-CRAS-NORLAB team from the Subterranean Challenge (SubT) organised by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). The contest seeks to advance technologies that would improve the safety and efficiency of search-and-rescue operations in GPS-denied environments. During the contest rounds, teams of mobile robots have to find specific objects while operating in environments with limited radio communication, e.g. mining tunnels, underground stations or natural caverns. We present a heterogeneous exploration robotic system of the CTU-CRAS-NORLAB team, which achieved the third rank at the SubT Tunnel and Urban Circuit rounds and surpassed the performance of all other non-DARPA-funded teams. The field report describes the team's hardware, sensors, algorithms and strategies, and discusses the lessons learned by participating at the DARPA SubT contest.
* This paper have already been accepted to be published Filed Robotics
special issue about DARPA SubT challange