Electronic 3D eyes to guide flying robot swarms

3D vision could help a swarm of flying robots undertake various tasks

Unmanned drones have changed the way surveillance and war is done. But they have increasingly received lots of flak from an unaccepting public. This may, however, change soon if a 3D drone technology from Germany is successful.

Researchers at Fraunhofer Institute for Microelectronic Circuits and Systems IMS in Duisberg Germany have developed robots capable of flying in swarms. The robots might soon play a crucial role in surveillance and other tasks.

A 3D vision technology helps prevent collisions when flying in formation. The electronic eyes will enable the robots see in 3D and perform functions such as photography.

Perhaps the benefits of this new technology may convince the world on the effectiveness of unmanned aerial surveillance vehicles. A fleet of the robots can fly in perfect formation without collision while recording detailed 3D images.

The robots are basically mini helicopters equipped with a light-detecting CMOS sensor akin to those available in cameras and cell phones. The sensors prevent collision by determining 3D distances between the robots.

The drones have a six feet wingspan with a propeller on each tilting wing. The recorded visual information is captured in pixels. Each pixel is then assigned a gray value, as well as a corresponding distance value.

By so doing, the drones can efficiently determine their position with regard to surrounding objects. The robots’ cameras can pick out objects as small as 20 by 15 centimeters from a distance of seven meters. It does not matter that the robot is flying in the direction of light.

According to the Germany researchers, the robots are better off than radar in measuring distance. Their aerial sensors can measure distance more effectively in comparison to radar.

Other than surveillance, the flying swarm of robots could be used for more efficient city planning. The robots may be employed to generate more effective 3D maps of areas to be developed.

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