Aerial Manipulation

The integration of a manipulator into a helicopter platform allows performing manipulation tasks in difficult accessible or dangerous areas. Starting from consideration of the general problem “manipulators with a free flying base” we have been developing solutions for particular applications: installation of sensor nodes, taking water and soil probes as well as maintenance of electrical power lines. In our work we consider systems composed of one or multiple cooperating platforms. This work is closely connected to our activities in RMC related to on-orbing servicing of satellites.
The figure shows the concept for a system composed
of two cooperating helicopters for construction tasks

The current working areas are:

  • Modeling and high performance control for helicopters with rotor diameters between 1.5 and 3 m
  • Motion coordination between flying platform and manipulator
  • Control of a manipulator mounted on a free flying base

This video shows grasping from an autonomous helicopter

This demonstration shows the capabilities of our helicopter control for manipulation tasks. The gripper – a robotic hand – is connected to the helicopter fuselage by means of a cardan-joint for compensation of the static orientation offset in roll and pitch axes. The positioning of the gripper relatively to the object is achieved only by moving the helicopter (the set up for applications will use more degrees of freedom for moving the manipulator). The onboard vision-system recognizes the object at the altitude of approx. one meter. From this point in time until the grasping, the helicopter is guided by the vision system, which tracks the object continuously. The helicopter is equipped with an avionic system developed by our group.

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