UAV swarm for flying in desert for the Technology Innovation Institute (TII)
Robots and specially Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are used for different tasks and in several different environments, each of which comes with its own challenges. It is often required to modify and enhance the technology when deploying UAVs in harsh environments such as forests or deserts. Contrary to indoor building spaces and even outdoor settings like a parking area or grass field, wild forest and deserts can be challenging to navigate. Several methods that rely on the underlying structure of the environment like nearly flat ground and distinct features for vision-based systems tend to fail in deserts.
The custom platform from Fly4Future (F4F) was specifically designed for multi-UAV missions in harsh environments. The onboard sensors accompanying the open-source autonomy engine enabled the UAVs to perform several different tasks in the desert. The compact design was crucial for deploying large number of UAVs simultaneously in the environment. The team at TII tested their algorithms with a swarm as large as 20 UAVs flying in a compact group in the desert.
The fully-equipped platform built for Technology Innovation Institute (TII) was based on a DJI quadcopter F450 frame and had the following configuration:
- T-Motor MN2212 920KV motors
- PixHawk 4 flight controller
- Intel NUC-i7 onboard computer
- Fast mvBlueFOX matrix-vision camera with DSL215 fisheye lens with BP365-R6 bandpass filter (UVDAR system)
- UV LEDs (395 nm) with Lambertian radiation
- Garmin Lidar rangefinder
- PRECIS-BX305 GNSS RTK
The UAV swarm can be used for several different applications. Performing critical tasks like serach-and-rescue and monitoring of plant and animal life can be extremely challenging for humans in a harsh environment. A swarm of UAVs can often cover large areas with better accuracy. Thus, they can assist human operators in search missions as well in long-term monitoring of the environment. Such application can help track and tranform the wildlife of deserts in the long run.