Enabling drones to use tools in complex environments


Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones, are revolutionizing surveying and inspection tasks that once required manned aircraft. Two academics from the University of Canterbury are working to take this capability to the next level, to enable drones to use tools with high precision in the air in harsh and changeable environments.

  • Left to right: Prof. Richard Green (computer and software engineering), Prof. Dan Zhao (mechanical engineering) and Kelvin Barnsdale (computer and software engineering) build a platform for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones , for using precision tools in harsh environments. Many industrial sectors, including the arboriculture, power infrastructure, and construction industries, could benefit by making the use of inaccessible or unsafe tools safer, easier and more efficient.

Computer teacher Richard Green who specializes in artificial intelligence, and professor of mechanical engineering Dan Zhao, an expert in aerospace engineering, are collaborating on the project that could radically change the way drones are used in various industries.

“Our research will go beyond simple surveying and inspection tasks. We will build a platform for drones to use precision tools in dynamic and changing environments, such as outdoors, around dangerous infrastructure like power pylons, or in construction or forestry, without ladders or scaffolding ” , said Professor Green.

“Enabling drones to use precision tools is a new technological capability and a radical change in functionality. This will transform not only the way drones can be used, but also how and where. “

UC Engineering professors, along with senior research engineer and drone expert Kelvin Barnsdale, have assembled a leading New Zealand team in drone, data and engineering research and engineering. aerodynamics, including strong links and collaborations with national and international researchers, manufacturers and drone users.

“To achieve our overall goal, we need to solve different but interdisciplinary research and engineering problems. This includes the prediction of turbulent flow rotor-rotor interactions, precise control of a hovering drone, control of force trajectory, and robust estimation of a drone’s position and orientation in a wide range. range of dynamic environments, ”says Professor Zhao.

“Our new approaches to solve these challenges include advanced aerodynamic modeling, new UAV cell design methods, advanced UAV control methods, new ways to optimize visual-odometry positioning and the demonstration of different applications. “

They designed their research and implementation initiatives with input from UAV manufacturers, UAV organizations, a wide range of industry end users in the fields of arboriculture, forestry, power infrastructure industry, civil construction, as well as Maori stakeholders and government and regulatory agencies.

“Our research will present a wide range of benefits for different industrial sectors to make inaccessible and dangerous tasks safer, easier, more profitable and more efficient. This will help create new UAV products and services and tap into the rapidly growing global UAV manufacturing and services market. “

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