In the air, drones are not only quick, they are also agile, but at the cost of battery life. On the ground, ground vehicles are slower and less agile then drones, but they trade those qualities for energy efficiency. Now, researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) are working on developing robots that combine the best qualities of drones and the best qualities of ground vehicles.
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.
Researchers from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) 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.
“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,” says PhD student Brandon Araki, lead author on the paper. “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.”
Want to see the efforts of the CSAIL team in action? Look below:
— The multi-robot path planning problem has been extensively studied for the cases of flying and driving vehicles. However, path planning for the case of vehicles that can both fly and drive has not yet been considered. Driving robots, while stable and energy efficient, are limited to mostly flat terrain. Quadcopters, on the other hand, are agile and highly mobile but have low energy efficiency and limited battery life. Combining a quadcopter with a driving mechanism presents a path planning challenge by enabling the selection of paths based off of both time and energy consumption. In this paper, we introduce a framework for multi-robot path planning for a swarm of flying and driving vehicles. By putting a lightweight driving platform on a quadcopter, we create a robust vehicle with an energy efficient driving mode and an agile flight mode. We extend two algorithms, priority planning with Safe Interval Path Planning and a multi-commodity network flow ILP, to accommodate multimodal locomotion, and we show that these algorithms can indeed plan collision-free paths for flying-and-driving vehicles on 3D graphs. Finally, we demonstrate that our system is able to plan paths and control the motions of 8 of our vehicles in a miniature town.
About Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL)The Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory – known as CSAIL – is the largest research laboratory at MIT and one of the world’s most important centers of information technology research.CSAIL and its members have played a key role in the computer revolution. The Lab’s researchers have been key movers in developments like time-sharing, massively parallel computers, public key encryption, the mass commercialization of robots, and much of the technology underlying the ARPANet, Internet and the World Wide Web.CSAIL members (former and current) have launched more than 100 companies, including 3Com, Lotus Development Corporation, RSA Data Security, Akamai, iRobot, Meraki, ITA Software, and Vertica. The Lab is home to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), directed by Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the Web and a CSAIL member.