HOME  |  NEWS  |  BLOGS  |  MESSAGES  |  FEATURES  |  VIDEOS  |  WEBINARS  |  INDUSTRIES  |  FOCUS ON FUNDAMENTALS
REGISTER   |   LOGIN   |   HELP
News
Automation & Control

Video: Robotic Plane Flies Indoors Without GPS

NO RATINGS
1 saves
View Comments: Threaded|Newest First|Oldest First
Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Who needs a pilot
Rob Spiegel   9/14/2012 1:43:32 PM
NO RATINGS
Pretty cool flight, Elizabeth. It will be interesting to see if they can take the next step and let the plane map out its own environment.

Beth Stackpole
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Who needs a pilot
Beth Stackpole   9/14/2012 2:48:23 PM
NO RATINGS
Definitely an interesting use of sensors, but not sure how they can translate the technology from flying what's more akin to a toy plane to something more substantial.

TJ McDermott
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Who needs a pilot
TJ McDermott   9/16/2012 11:34:53 PM
NO RATINGS
Beth, this is one big step towards autonomous cars.  Having everything done on-board instead of being relayed from a much more powerful computer is amazing.

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Who needs a pilot
Rob Spiegel   9/17/2012 10:39:51 AM
NO RATINGS
That's probably a big leap, Beth, just as it would be a big leap to transfer the technology to an environment that is not pre-programmed for the flying craft. Yet I could see this technology eventually getting incorporated into drones.

Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Who needs a pilot
Charles Murray   9/14/2012 6:30:05 PM
NO RATINGS
To do this without GPS is amazing. I'm still not sure, though, how it determines when it has reached its destination. Does the user have to program in a 2D map? 

Scott Orlosky
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Who needs a pilot
Scott Orlosky   9/16/2012 9:45:02 AM
NO RATINGS
Wow, I have to say this is a pretty amazing video to watch, especially knowing more about how they did it.  I would think this could be very useful in collision avoidance of all types.  Maybe it could even apply to conventional automobiles and race cars (though I suspect the potential for a crash is part of the thrill of racing).

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Who needs a pilot
Rob Spiegel   9/17/2012 12:53:30 PM
NO RATINGS
It effectively has a 3D map, Chuck. It knows where all of the beams are and it navigates both vertically and horizontally. 

Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Who needs a pilot
Charles Murray   9/17/2012 5:31:27 PM
NO RATINGS
Rob: So by combining the 3D map with dead reckoning calculations, it can eliminate the need for a GPS connection?

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Who needs a pilot
Rob Spiegel   9/17/2012 5:54:22 PM
NO RATINGS
Yes, Chuck, this thing is flying without GPS. It has mapped the space it flies in. What I don't get is how the plane knows where it is within its map. 

Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Who needs a pilot
Charles Murray   9/17/2012 6:37:46 PM
NO RATINGS
If it uses gyroscopes or three-axis accelerometers, that would answer our question, Rob.

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Who needs a pilot
Rob Spiegel   9/18/2012 12:03:56 PM
NO RATINGS
So, with those devices, Chuck, would it know where it is in relation to floor, ceiling and pillars? 

Ann R. Thryft
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Who needs a pilot
Ann R. Thryft   9/18/2012 1:12:06 PM
NO RATINGS
Robots that make maps--and that update them continuously for navigation purposes, which it's not clear that this one does--are a topic we've covered before: http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=240288

That one is also MIT, and also from a group in its CSAIL lab.

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Who needs a pilot
Rob Spiegel   9/18/2012 1:50:32 PM
NO RATINGS
Thanks for the link, Ann. I find it amusing that this robot uses technology from the Xbox 360. Computer games have led a number of technology developments. In the automation and control world, they're using game technology for training and simulation. The miltary is also using game technology for training.

Jack Rupert, PE
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Who needs a pilot
Jack Rupert, PE   9/18/2012 2:13:01 PM
NO RATINGS
I've noticed that too, Rob.  It seems that a lot of mainstream developments come out of either the gaming industry or another "nameless" industry used for the distributioin of electronic media.

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Who needs a pilot
Rob Spiegel   9/18/2012 2:30:10 PM
NO RATINGS
That "nameless" industry has created very significant changes, particularly in the publishing industry, Jack. And more disruption to come: TV, retail, you name it.

Jack Rupert, PE
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Who needs a pilot
Jack Rupert, PE   9/18/2012 11:14:09 AM
NO RATINGS
It would be interesting to see how the algorithm would respond to a change in the environment - such as if a new structure were added (or somebody's head for that matter).  Would it know enough to just avoid the obstacle or would it think it is in another location of the map?

Rob Spiegel
User Rank
Blogger
Re: Who needs a pilot
Rob Spiegel   9/18/2012 12:10:35 PM
NO RATINGS
Good question, Jack. The new object might need to be programmed in. On their next stage, this team is going to try to get the plane to map its own environment on the run. I would think that would require GPS. But maybe not.

NadineJ
User Rank
Platinum
I like pilots
NadineJ   9/16/2012 10:43:29 AM
NO RATINGS
This looks cool.  I love the idea of GPS-free flighs with the saftey that GPS offers.  I think it would be great as an aid for pilots too.  This would be good for humanitarian drops in remote areas that are isolated or cut off in natural disasters. 

I can't wait to see the evolution of this.  There are lots of other moving objects in the sky. Anything that can avoid or deter birds would be fantastic for the aviation industry.

CLMcDade
User Rank
Gold
unfamiliar terrain
CLMcDade   9/17/2012 11:15:15 AM
NO RATINGS
Not having to pre-program the environment into the computer seems to be a common theme in many of the comments and on first brush, it seems like not attaining it would be, in a way, a failure or limitation of the ultimate design of this system.

However, how many humans would be able to fly a plane through an unfamiliar, enclosed environment without stalling or colliding with objects?  Switching to a helicopter type device would help us, because it could come to a complete stop relatively quickly without stalling.  But if we were in a fixed-wing aircraft which had to maintain forward motion at a minimum airspeed, with no do-overs or a re-set button, I think few people would be able to accomplish it.

If you play video games, think of getting to a new level, or running a new race course, in a game where you HAVE to keep moving to keep from getting killed, passed or disabled.  It generally takes many, many tries before a gamer can familiarize his or herself with the environment and subsequently negotiate it at full speed successfully.

While the goal may be the ideal, it is asking a lot of the onboard computer of a  fixed winged aircraft to do something that our human brains and senses cannot do.  Again, in a rotary type device, it is entirely feasible. 

bobjengr
User Rank
Platinum
AUTONOMOUS CARS
bobjengr   9/22/2012 1:40:12 PM
NO RATINGS
TJ--My thoughts exactly.  I don't know what changes might need to be made to adapt the systems to this use but I do think that could be accomplished with some effort now that the work that has been done already.  I do see the great advantage for in-flight systems where GPS is not available or has been disabled.   This is great work by MIT and contributing agencies of our government.  

 

Partner Zone
Latest Analysis
Eric Chesak created a sensor that can detect clouds, and it can also measure different sources of radiation.
Festo's BionicKangaroo combines pneumatic and electrical drive technology, plus very precise controls and condition monitoring. Like a real kangaroo, the BionicKangaroo robot harvests the kinetic energy of each takeoff and immediately uses it to power the next jump.
Practicing engineers have not heeded Yoda's words.
Design News and Digi-Key presents: Creating & Testing Your First RTOS Application Using MQX, a crash course that will look at defining a project, selecting a target processor, blocking code, defining tasks, completing code, and debugging.
Rockwell Automation recently unveiled a new safety relay that can be configured and integrated through existing software to program safety logic in devices.
More:Blogs|News
Design News Webinar Series
3/27/2014 11:00 a.m. California / 2:00 p.m. New York / 7:00 p.m. London
2/27/2014 11:00 a.m. California / 2:00 p.m. New York / 7:00 p.m. London
12/18/2013 Available On Demand
11/20/2013 Available On Demand
Quick Poll
The Continuing Education Center offers engineers an entirely new way to get the education they need to formulate next-generation solutions.
Apr 21 - 25, Creating & Testing Your First RTOS Application Using MQX
SEMESTERS: 1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5


Focus on Fundamentals consists of 45-minute on-line classes that cover a host of technologies. You learn without leaving the comfort of your desk. All classes are taught by subject-matter experts and all are archived. So if you can't attend live, attend at your convenience.
Next Class: April 29 - Day 1
Sponsored by maxon precision motors
Learn More   |   Login   |   Archived Classes
Twitter Feed
Design News Twitter Feed
Like Us on Facebook

Sponsored Content

Technology Marketplace

Datasheets.com Parts Search

185 million searchable parts
(please enter a part number or hit search to begin)
Copyright © 2014 UBM Canon, A UBM company, All rights reserved. Privacy Policy | Terms of Service