Event-camera equipped drones get milliseconds reaction times: Page 2 of 2

March 19, 2020 //By Julien Happich
Leveraging so-called event cameras with a proprietary moving-obstacle detection algorithm, researchers from the University of Zurich and NCCR Robotics have reduced a drone‘s reaction time from tens of milliseconds to only 3.5 milliseconds in order to detect and avoid fast-moving objects.

More than 90% of the time, the drone avoided the ball (thrown from a 3-meter distance at 10m/s). When the drone “knew” the size of the object in advance, one camera was enough, but when it had to face objects of varying size, two cameras were used to enable stereoscopic vision.

Sequence of an avoidance manoeuver.

According to Davide Scaramuzza, who leads the Robotics and Perception Group at the University of Zurich as well as the NCCR Robotics Search and Rescue Grand Challenge which funded the research, these results show that event cameras can increase the speed at which drones can navigate by up to ten times.

“One day drones will be used for a large variety of applications, such as delivery of goods, transportation of people, aerial filmography and, of course, search and rescue,” he says. “But enabling robots to perceive and make decision faster can be a game changer for also for other domains where reliably detecting incoming obstacles plays a crucial role, such as automotive, good delivery, transportation, mining, and remote inspection with robots”, Scaramuzza says.

“Our ultimate goal is to make one day autonomous drones navigate as good as human drone pilots. Currently, in all search and rescue applications where drones are involved, the human is actually in control. If we could have autonomous drones navigate as reliable as human pilots we would then be able to use them for missions that fall beyond line of sight or beyond the reach of the remote control”, added Davide Falanga, PhD student and primary author of the article.

NCCR Robotics – www.nccr-robotics.ch

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