Vertical Landing for Micro Air Vehicles using Event-Based Optical Flow

31 Jan 2017  ·  Bas J. Pijnacker Hordijk, Kirk Y. W. Scheper, Guido C. H. E. de Croon ·

Small flying robots can perform landing maneuvers using bio-inspired optical flow by maintaining a constant divergence. However, optical flow is typically estimated from frame sequences recorded by standard miniature cameras. This requires processing full images on-board, limiting the update rate of divergence measurements, and thus the speed of the control loop and the robot. Event-based cameras overcome these limitations by only measuring pixel-level brightness changes at microsecond temporal accuracy, hence providing an efficient mechanism for optical flow estimation. This paper presents, to the best of our knowledge, the first work integrating event-based optical flow estimation into the control loop of a flying robot. We extend an existing 'local plane fitting' algorithm to obtain an improved and more computationally efficient optical flow estimation method, valid for a wide range of optical flow velocities. This method is validated for real event sequences. In addition, a method for estimating the divergence from event-based optical flow is introduced, which accounts for the aperture problem. The developed algorithms are implemented in a constant divergence landing controller on-board of a quadrotor. Experiments show that, using event-based optical flow, accurate divergence estimates can be obtained over a wide range of speeds. This enables the quadrotor to perform very fast landing maneuvers.

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