ENGINEERING TECHNOLOGY

The Chinese team has developed an aerial robot that can “think independently”


Aerial robots. (Photo courtesy of Zhejiang University)

Aerial robots. (Photo courtesy of Zhejiang University)

Flying in droves in unknown and complex environments has always been seen as a major technical bottleneck in the field of robotics and artificial intelligence. In more than two years of research, the research team of the School of Control Science and Engineering of Zhejiang University and the Huzhou Research Institute has solved a series of core technologies such as intelligent navigation and rapid obstacle avoidance methods of robots and swarms in unknown and complex environments, bringing scenes that can only be seen in movies to the real world.

The work was published in Science Robotics on May 5 and was selected as the journal’s May cover paper. The first author of the paper is Zhou Xin, a doctoral student in the School of Control Science and Engineering of Zhejiang University, and the corresponding authors are Dr. Gao Fei and Professor Xu Chao of the institute.

Large-scale robotic aerial formation performances have long been common, and through the early satellite positioning and trajectory coding, they can achieve ever-changing shapes. However, once they lose control of the ground computer, these robot groups will be leaderless or even crash into obstacles and fall down.

“The herringbone geese, the orderly flocks of pigeons, when we look up at the sky, the flocks of birds in nature always make us think about how they stay in formation.” Xu Chao said that allowing robots to fly freely in flocks like birds and the Tao Fa is the highest realm that we and our international counterparts are struggling to pursue.

Through collective and concerted efforts, the Zhejiang University team developed a small, lightweight, autonomous and controllable flight system that can be used in groups. A single aerial robot is only the size of a palm and weighs less than a cola.

The new robot developed by Zhejiang University has achieved a number of key technological breakthroughs such as perceiving surrounding obstacles, locating its own position and generating flight paths, and multi-agent communication in the complex environment of wild woods using only on-board vision and on-board computing resources. “We make the robot understand the world, actively avoid obstacles, and achieve group flight.” Goofy said.

“We’ve also built an intelligent brain for aerial robots.” Xu Chao said that although the processor is only the size of a thumb, it can independently calculate and process the huge amount of information encountered during flight. “The key to characterizing the motion information of the physical world into a series of mathematical problems is to identify the hidden special mathematical structure behind the complex problems, simplify the complex, and use the overstretched on-board computing resources to perfectly solve the problem.”

Xu Chao introduced that from drawing design to hardware debugging, from algorithm research and development to code writing, from experimental testing to system optimization, it is completely completely completed by the teachers and students of the Zhejiang University team, “In the world, there are only a few teams that can independently complete the whole process of work.” ”

In the process of research and development, the team has made breakthroughs in the development of intelligent, networked, autonomous and other aspects of technology, and this achievement will also have a positive effect on the machine substitution and industrial upgrading of the industrial world.

When it comes to future applications, Gao Fei believes that in search and rescue scenarios such as fires, small cluster robots can better achieve search and rescue goals and reduce the risk of search and rescue personnel; in terrain exploration, they can also quickly model areas that cannot be reached by personnel. “There are many scenarios in life where we can use this technology, such as sweeping floors or service robots, and if we install the ‘smart brain’ we developed, it will be smarter.” (Source: China Science Daily Cui Xueqin)

Related paper information:https://doi.org/10.1126/scirobotics.abm5954



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