Swarming quads from Chiba University, and a cheaper new motion capture system?

From Diginfo.tv. Those are the gnarliest motion capture dot-holders I've ever seen. Why out on sticks? A commentor says they're using a motion capture system that's just a fraction of the cost of a Vicon. Anybody know anything about that? (Maybe someone who can read Japanese and can navigate the Chiba U website) 

The Nonami Group at Chiba University is developing drone robots for information gathering, and the group has demonstrated four multi-rotor helicopters, flying in formation using image processing.

"The cameras capture the markers, and send all the images to the host computer, which calculates the position and attitude. Positioning can be done to within 1 mm. The control frequency is 100 Hz, so position and attitude are calculated every 10 ms, to prevent collisions."

Each helicopter weighs 300g, and can carry a payload of 500 g. Currently, each has a 250 g battery, so they can carry cameras and other devices totaling 250 g.

"The current demonstration is an attraction, so it might be even more fun to have ten of these flying. Also, when they're actually gathering information outdoors, the more there are, the faster they can obtain information. So we're thinking of using formation flight with a commercial version."

"It's very difficult to create mathematical models for this type of drone. But we do quite rigorous modeling, with strong nonlinearity; that makes the models complicated. But we've designed a controller to match that complexity, and we're verifying that the drones can actually fly in a stable manner."

"On July 5, we took part in an emergency drill by the Police Department. The scenario was an explosion at a chemical plant. Our mission was to find out if people were on site, and return. We succeeded very well, and the Police Department said they'd like to introduce this system. It could also have lots of other applications. For example, it could be used to monitor volcanic eruptions, or to inspect power lines."

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Comment by John Leichty on July 17, 2012 at 9:49pm

From the closeups of the camera, I think it's a NaturalPoint OptiTrack system.

Comment by Fedor Korsakov on July 17, 2012 at 10:37pm

Definitely looks like OptiTrack. I suspect the sticks are arranged to keep the drones uniquely identifiable within the capture volume, and the gnarly look is due to spreading the markers apart for more accurate readings and less occlusion risk.

Comment by Jack Crossfire on July 18, 2012 at 12:11am

It's the chopstick system.  The American version uses forks.

Comment by Roberto Naldi on July 18, 2012 at 1:37am

Yes, they look like Optitrack V100 USB cameras. We are using the same motion tracking system in our project AIRobots. If you are interested this is the Optitrack system we use in Bologna: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=--vr2c0Y4N8&list=UUBJztkDpUopwwP...  

Comment by Jiro Hattori on July 18, 2012 at 2:19am

This development is done by Nonami Control of Robotics Lab. Their website is here. http://mec2.tm.chiba-u.jp/~nonami/english/index_e.html The other videos are here. http://mec2.tm.chiba-u.jp/monograph/contents.html

Comment by Jiro Hattori on July 18, 2012 at 2:32am
Comment by Travis on July 18, 2012 at 9:34am

As many folks in the comments confirm, they're likely using an OptiTrack system.  These have become fairly popular in academia as a low-cost vicon alternative -- 1/5th to 1/10th the cost with respectable resolution and update rates. In fact... my old lab (Healthcare Robotics Lab at Georgia Tech) had one or two OptiTrak systems set up for non-UAV work...

Some of my old lab colleagues developed open-source ROS drivers for OptiTrack.  I meant to write about it shortly after the "Honesty in Robot Videos" post on Hizook, where I got all riled up about researchers not disclosing the use of Vicon... but I got distracted by startup efforts.  Since I'll be back in Atlanta this weekend, perhaps I can lean my former labmates to contribute a Hizook article about OptiTrack (installation, setup, specs, settings, opensource drivers, etc).  I'll be sure to tell them that y'all are interested -- that might provide a little added motivation.  ;-)

PS -- I just heard back from my former labmates.  They said they'll help with a writeup. Expect an article about "(Sorta) Low-Cost Motion Capture Systems" on Hizook in the near future.

~Travis Deyle (from Hizook)

Comment by Cliff-E on July 18, 2012 at 12:01pm

Some of my old lab colleagues developed open-source ROS drivers for OptiTrack


Yep, we're using it and they are directly swappable with the ROS vicon plugins. And we have the same optitrack stuff--you'll need more cameras to match the Vicon system in precision, so the price in the end is around 20% less, which is significant in some applications (not miiltary, but likely for local police).

I like how the sales pitch portion goes:

"We did a chemical plant emergency,"..... "and volcanic eruptions and powerlines". Yeah, try putting a motion capture system around those environments. Heck optitrack doesn't work much outdoors, mind that how could one set up & calibrate an ad-hoc system... (and Vicon just release their new outdoor cameras in Dec).

From the video: 

Choice of motors look very interesting.

Looks like a custom PCB.

And as usual: zipties... FTW.

Comment by Randy on July 18, 2012 at 10:03pm

I might try and ping that professor and try and get more details..


BTW, for those people based in Japan who might be drawn in particular to this thread, there is now a japanDrones store and a Japan ArduCopter Group here on DIYDrones.  Hattori-san and I are thinking about organising some get togethers..

Comment by Brian Nilles on October 10, 2012 at 4:33pm

An older thread, but its worth having the group know.  That is an OptiTrack system... we have dozens in use with older cameras like the ones shown, but we've also developed two brand new lines that are well suited for precision tracking of drones - and at prices that are indeed a fraction of the cost of Vicon.  (I was Vicon's CEO for 8 years :)

If you're interested - I'd be happy to extrapolate.



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