sFly UAVs Swarm Together For SAR

sFly UAVs have been under development in the European Union for two years. The project was focused on the development of autonomous micro helicopters, visual 3D mapping and multi-robot control in difficult environments.

Check out this cool demo video that demonstrates the purpose of the sFly project, which is sponsored by the European Community's Seventh Framework Programme.


(Search and Rescue of Victims in GPS-Denied Environments)

A swarm of micro flying robots is supporting a group of workers in a large scale environment for executing a search and rescue operation.

The workers are equipped with transmitter badges for their identification and localization.

The demo simulates a search and rescue operation in an outdoor GPS-denied disaster scenario. No laser, no GPS, and Vicon or other external cameras are used for navigation and mapping, but just onboard cameras and IMUs. All the processing runs onboard, on a Core2Duo processing unit. This video gives an overview of the existing modules being used for the final demonstration. The mission consists of first collecting images for creating a common global map of the working area with 3 helicopters, then engaging positions for an optimal surveillance coverage of the area, and finally detecting the transmitter positions.

The sFly micro air vehicle is fully autonomous, navigating using entirely onboard resources. Take a look at this brief test video.


(Search and Rescue of Victims in GPS-Denied Environments)

We use a key-frame based monocular SLAM as pose estimator to feed the MAV controller. Only one single camera and one IMU is used as sensors. All calculations are done on-board. To keep the calculation cost at constant complexity we delete old key-frames and features of the SLAM map. Thus we only keep record of the past few meters we flew. The first part of the video shows an indoor flight (about 50m). Note that the square flown is not entirely mapped. Merely one edge of the square is in the current map at any given time-step. That is, the MAV perceives each step as completely new terrain. This way the monocular SLAM may be seen as "degenerated" to visual odometry.

The second part demonstrates the same approach outdoors for a trajectory of about 25m.

This video is played 2x the normal speed.

Science fiction presaged the growing use of micro air vehicles; take a look at these sfnal 'devices' culled from the literature of the past eighty years:

...the Scarab buzzed into the great workroom as any intruding insect might, and sought the security of a shadowed corner. There it studied its surroundings, transmitting to its manipulator, far away now, all that it heard through its ear microphones and saw with its minute vision tubes.
(More about Scarab flying insect robot from The Scarab by Raymond Z. Gallun [1936])

On the chest of drawers something was perched. Something that gleamed, shiny metal, gleamed and clicked as it turned toward her. She saw into two glassy mechanical lenses, something with a tubelike body, the size of a child's bat, shot upward and swept toward her.
(More about robot tracking devices from Vulcan's Hammer by Philp K. Dick [1960])

Gersen continued, "There is a stick-tight watching us, although I have not yet located it. Its microphone probably registers our conversation...
(See variations of stick-tights from The Star king by Jack Vance [1964])

The dark birdforms dotted the mountaintops like statues of prehistoric beasts, wings outspread. Had there been an eye to observe them, it might not even have noted their minute, tropism-like pursuit of the sun across the sky as they recharged their batteries for the night's flight...
(More about tracer-birds from Changeling by Roger Zelazny [1980])

Blurbflies are allowd to travel the streets, buzzing their adverts alive and direct to the punters.
Blurbs shall stand for Bio-Logical-Ultra-Robotic-Broadcasting-System.
Only the company shall manufacture the blurbs. Other businesses or individuals may purchase blurbs from the Company, pre-loaded with messages and armed to the teeth, for the appropriate price.
(Read more about blurbflies from Nymphomation by Jeff Noon [2000])

From sFly; see more sFly videos. Via Physorg.

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