Autonomous Flight and Uninhabited Air Vehicles
In addition to military uses, unmanned aircraft (commonly known as drones) are seeing significant scientific and civil applications. Our research focuses on path planning, control, state estimation and data fusion, applied especially to navigation, obstacle avoidance, and long-range flight of small uninhabited aircraft.
There are two main thrusts to this research: first, improving perception of the vehicle’s surroundings (i.e., turning sensor data into actionable intelligence); second, improving the vehicle’s persistence (i.e., the length of time it can remain on station and the distance that it can cover in flight).
In many cases our research is bio-inspired: we are developing algorithms for autonomous flight that allow small UAVs to soar, harvesting energy from the atmosphere. Ultimately, we seek to develop a soaring-capable, autonomous, mini-UAV that is equipped with a sophisticated sensing system that will be able to follow a migrating bird and provide close-up in-flight video, as well as in situ atmospheric measurements.
Research Focus Areas
Our research has a strong focus on hardware implementation: testbeds include multi-rotors, a helicopter, and fixed-wing aircraft. Specific research topics include:
- Vision-based obstacle avoidance and navigation
- Trajectory generation and trajectory following control
- Flight planning in complex wind fields
- Vision-based landing systems
- Atmospheric sensing
- Mapping algorithms