3D Robotics

Autonomous quadrotor navigation with a Kinect

We knew this day was coming, but it's great to see it so soon: UC Berkeley has a Kinect onboard a Quad doing optical obstacle avoidance.

From the video description:

"This work is part of the STARMAC Project in the Hybrid Systems Lab at UC Berkeley (EECS department).http://hybrid.eecs.berkeley.edu/

Researcher: Patrick Bouffard
PI: Prof. Claire Tomlin

Our lab’s Ascending Technologies [1] Pelican quadrotor, flying autonomously and avoiding obstacles.

The attached Microsoft Kinect [2] delivers a point cloud to the onboard computer via the ROS [3] kinect driver, which uses the OpenKinect/Freenect [4] project’s driver for hardware access. A sample consensus algorithm [5] fits a planar model to the points on the floor, and this planar model is fed into the controller as the sensed altitude. All processing is done on the on-board 1.6 GHz Intel Atom based computer, running Linux (Ubuntu 10.04).

A VICON [6] motion capture system is used to provide the other necessary degrees of freedom (lateral and yaw) and acts as a safety backup to the Kinect altitude–in case of a dropout in the altitude reading from the Kinect data, the VICON based reading is used instead. In this video however, the safety backup was not needed.

[1] http://www.asctec.de
[2] http://www.microsoft.com
[3] http://www.ros.org/wiki/kinect
[4] http://openkinect.org
[5] http://www.ros.org/wiki/pcl
[6] http://www.vicon.com"

(via Trossen Robotics)

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  • Here is a good tear-down of the Kinect, if you are wondering what is inside and how much weight you can jettison: http://www.ifixit.com/Teardown/Microsoft-Kinect-Teardown/4066/2. I hope to get some of these soon and start trimming away...
  • 3D Robotics
    Ah, I stand corrected. That is indeed impressive to do that onboard. I suppose one solution is to add a gumstix board to any quad for image processing and just have it interface with the autopilot. Might be easier than trying to do everything on one board, and wouldn't weigh much (certainly not much compared to the Kinect!)
  • Obstical avoidance is cool and all but. I wonder if this could be the next best thing for height hold. Since the altitude hold is done optically and not with ultrasound, the range could be pretty good right? I'd like to see how far that could be pushed.
  • t-minus 24 hours till sumebody gets the idea to strip these things down, string together 4 for 360 degree freedom and culminates it in an atom board, for fully stabalized and 360 degree obstacle avoidance for indoor flight autonomously lol
  • In this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4EGQZsu-kkk by John Stowers (www.johnstowers.co.nz) the processing is performed by an onboard Gumstix Overo. The Kinect is pointing down, and by fitting a 3D plane/surface to the point cloud data, altiude, roll and pitch are estimated. In this video, those measurements are used in a feedback loop to stabilize the aircraft.
  • Actually the movie shows a demo which uses onboard processing.. on an Atom board :-( So far beyond APM capabilities. And they have this nice VICON system... Still an amazing progress.
    I think on something like a roboard you could build a system using Kinect and controlling your Platform.
  • 3D Robotics
    All of these Kinect demos are run on ground-based computers. It doesn't matter what kind of hardware is running on the quad, as long as it can be controlled from the ground.

    Needless to say, this is a demo that only works in the lab ;-)
  • Now Chris the question is:Can you use an Kinect camera with your existing APM hardware, or you need to upgrade to something more powerful like a platform based on Intel Atom and ROS?
  • Wow, that's amazingly fast, considering it wasn't that long that the Kinect was decoded.
  • Ascending Technologies has a good marketing department. Always funny to see everything stripped down to minimize weight, except the Kinect which stays in its shiny case because Microsoft is obviously donating them for publicity.
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