Wednesday, May 27, 2015

RAFAGA system allows autonomous drones to find their way without GPS

The concept of autonomous delivery drones sounds exciting all right; but how exactly would they work? They would all use the GPS to navigate. And this brings up a question – what happens when GPS is not available?

Here prof. Martinez Carranza comes to the rescue – he has developed a completely new navigation system that’s based on visual observations.

Professor Carranza, a researcher at Mexico’s National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics (INAOE), was working on the RAFAGA project (Robust Autonomous Flight of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles in areas where GPS is unavailable) when he developed this, possibly, revolutionary system.

The system uses a satellite image similar to Google Maps showing the area the drone needs to traverse; users will draw a flight path on the map, as opposed to autonomous flight software used at present by many personal drones. And while the latter use GPS viewpoints, RAFAGA-enabled drone relies on its onboard camera to identify objects on the ground, such as buildings, features of the terrain and similar; these are then compared against their aerial images on the satellite map.

In conclusion, two main benefits of this technology: apart from being considered more reliable then GPS; the hardwarerequired, including cameras, accelerometers and gyroscopes, is also significantly cheaper.


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