A key constraint facing flying robots is their energy and computational constraints. We are interested in the ability to rapidly generate vehicle trajectories to achieve goals, especially on constrained computational hardware. This is especially interesting in highly dynamic scenarios, where systems must react to the environment or unplanned/unpredictable events.
We are also interested in improving the power consumption and efficiency of the systems, to allow them to achieve more on a given energy budget. We have looked at optimizing a vehicle’s trajectory online, in response to its in-flight energy consumption — specifically, without requiring any model knowledge, we have demonstrated how an aerial system can automatically find the optimal airspeed to fly at under different (unknown) payloads.
For more information, refer to: Andrea Tagliabue, Xiangyu Wu, and Mark W. Mueller: Model-free Online Motion Adaptation for Optimal Range and Endurance of Multicopters, IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), 2019.
The mechanical design of the vehicle is of course crucially important for power consumption. We have shown that, perhaps surprisingly, tilting the vehicle’s propellers away from the common thrust direction can lead to improvements in total power consumption: this is because the vehicle gains control authority about its yaw axis, leading to less energy needing to be spent to reject disturbances.
For more information, see Conrad Holda, Behnam Ghalamchi, and Mark W. Mueller: Tilting multicopter rotors for increased power efficiency and yaw authority, International Conference on Unmanned Aerial Systems (ICUAS), 2018.