IR-LOCK Sensor for Precision Landing, etc


We finally have a progress report on the integration of the IR-LOCK (Infrared Pixy) vision sensor with Pixhawk. A group of students at the Georgia Institute of Technology is using the sensor for their 'Package Delivery Drone', which requires precision landings. They plan to use GPS to travel to a waypoint, and then use the IR-LOCK sensor to land precisely on an infrared beacon. Recently, they were able to get an IRIS+IR-LOCK to auto-hover over an IR beacon (see videos). 

Other applications for IR-LOCK/Pixhawk are in the works (or at least in mind):

  • Search&Rescue (auto-search for emergency IR beacons)
  • Moving target following
  • Aerial surveying (I will be able to post a relevant video soon)
  • ... your thoughts/ideas are welcome :)

We are in the process of making the IR-LOCK/Pixhawk interface more developer-friendly. The current developments (by the student group) are based on an IR-LOCK sensor 'driver' and codebase discussed on this FAQ page (link). A 'more official' implementation should be under development soon. The relevant discussion is here (link). 

Small IR 'Pods' can be detected by the IR-LOCK sensor at about ~30-60ft. The IR-LOCK sensor reports the (xy) position of IR targets to Pixhawk at 50Hz. 


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  • Developer

    @iw28, yes, the Wii camera has been used in the past for position estimation.  I think the reason it didn't progress further was that we weren't ready for it in the main code and the sensors are not available without tearing apart a wii-remote.

  • Developer

    By the way, we're working with Thomas to get this integrated into ArduCopter.  It might make it into AC3.3 although i can't promise that yet.

    There's going to be a new general purpose AC_PrecLand library that hopefully will be useful for the IR-Lock, Daniel Nugent's companion computer solution and other future systems like OpenMV.

  • Super cool. Ordered one, can't wait to try it out!
  • Can't wait!!!

  • Just design your charge station so that orientation doesn't matter.  A little logic in the charge base could easily switch polarity.  You could also do a cone shaped base that you land on setup similar to an audio jack, but bigger.  Or you could just design the base to work within your heading error levels, which can't be more than a handful of degrees.

  • @Jim

    Thanks for your feedback! The precision landing is one of our major objectives. Hopefully, we will continue to have success as we start to do controlled descent tests. 

    Currently, we are only working with one IR target and one IR-LOCK sensor. But it would be fairly simple to use multiple IR-targets to help control the quad's yaw angle (with respect to the 'landing targets'). Is that what you were thinking?

  • @Eva


  • @iw28

    I have seen some quadcopter work with the wii remote camera (somewhere on Youtube). I don't know if it was eventually successful. One of the issues is that you cannot access the raw image data, so it may be difficult to diagnose and fix IR interference problems (from lightbulbs/sunlight etc.). However, I am definitely interested, so let me know if you find anything cool ... The major advantages could be cost/size.

    The Pixy also provides 'blob size' data, but I have not found it be very useful. The position info is most helpful in our applications. 

  • This is great.  I have also envisioned a system like what Jake Stew mentioned - an automated flight system that takes off, flies a pre-designed route while taking pictures or videos, lands, automatically downloads, and then recharges itself.  My only hangup was how to automatically recharge.  With a precision landing system, a drone can be designed with a charging port that can line up upon landing.  One question - could you use two IR-LOCKS to control orientation?

  • Very cool work!!!

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