Hexarotor UAV for LAAS/CNRS in Toulouse
Autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) have attracted attention from both the research and industrial community in the past few years. Customization is a key requirement in many research areas as it enables creativity and innovation. Novel and targeted solutions are often needed to tackle real-world problems. Open-source software and easy-to-use software systems are also essential for creating and using customized algorithms and tools. The commercial drone industry provides compact and easy-to-use solutions but often lacks customization and uses closed-source software. The ability to add different sensors like cameras, IMUs and even simple robotic manipulators opens several directions of research which are not possible with such commercial platforms.
Fly4Future (F4F) developed a customized UAV platform that uses open-source software and provides the flexibility of adding new sensors as needed for the application. The platform uses easily accessible parts, often 3D printed, which makes it affordable. The 3D printed parts also decrease the time needed to repair the platform in case of a crash, which is common in field experiments.
The fully-equipped research platform built for LAAS/CNRS in Toulouse was based on a DJI hexacopter F550 frame and had the following configuration:
- E310 DJI motors
- PixHawk 4 flight controller
- Intel NUC-i7 onboard computer
- Garmin Lidar rangefinder
- PRECIS-BX305 GNSS RTK
The platform can be used in several different applications including mapping, tracking and general data collection. By adding sensors like cameras and LIDARs, it is possible to make highly accurate maps of the environment in a very short time. UAVs equipped with small manipulators or sampling mechanisms can also be used for sampling large areas of land and water. Since the platforms are dispensable, they can also be used in dangerous environments like forest fires or damaged buildings.