Multi-Robot Path Planning For Swarm of Robots that Can Both Fly, Drive (MIT)

Quadcopter drones that fly and drive through a city-like setting with parking spots, no-fly zones, and landing pads

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Source: MIT/CSAIL.Brandon Araki, John Strang, Sarah Pohorecky, Celine Qiu, Tobias Naegeli, and Daniela R

Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) propose that if robots could be programmed to both walk and take flight, it would open up possibilities including machines that could fly into construction areas or disaster zones that aren’t near roads, and squeeze through tight spaces on the ground to transport objects or rescue people. However, the team said the problem is that robots that are good at one mode of transportation are usually bad at another: Airborne drones are fast and agile, but generally have too limited of a battery life to travel for long distances. Ground vehicles, on the other hand, are more energy efficient, but slower and less mobile.

To this end, the researchers are aiming to develop robots that can both maneuver around on land and take to the skies. In a new paper, the team presented a system of eight quadcopter drones that can fly and drive through a city-like setting with parking spots, no-fly zones, and landing pads.

PhD student Brandon Araki, lead author on the paper said, “The ability to both fly and drive is useful in environments with a lot of barriers, since you can fly over ground obstacles and drive under overhead obstacles. Normal drones can’t maneuver on the ground at all. A drone with wheels is much more mobile while having only a slight reduction in flying time.”

Araki and CSAIL Director Daniela Rus developed the system, along with MIT undergraduate students John Strang, Sarah Pohorecky, and Celine Qiu, and Tobias Naegeli of ETH Zurich’s Advanced Interactive Technologies Lab. The team presented their system at IEEE’s International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Singapore earlier this month.

For paper, click here.

For press release, click here.