We got two awards in IMAV 2012!

Posted on Jul 8 2012

Home, sweet home. My luggage is laying on the floor, as exhausted as me. I arrived yesterday from Braunschweig, Germany, but went straight to bed for a mandatory energy charge. I slept for an insane number of hours, like a baby, with the satisfaction of the job well done. Because my team, the Computer Vision Group of the Technical University of Madrid, got two awards in the International Micro Air Vehicle Conference and Flight Competition, IMAV 2012:

1) Special Award for the "Best Automatic Performance"
2) 2nd place in the Indoor Flight Dynamics Challenge


According to the organization, our drone was the first one in the history of the competition to pass the challenge without any human intervention, entirely on its own. This is the reason for the special award. About the second place, it was a human pilot who got the first one with a higher score. If we had competed against machines only, we would have taken the first place. I think the organizers are going to change the rules for the next year because of us.

My colleague Jesús Pestana did an amazing job with the position estimation and high-level controllers (trajectory and mission). My contributions were the software framework, visual speed estimation, hardware drivers and low-level controllers (attitude and altitude). Jesus and I spent thousands of hours sharing ideas about our work and helping each other, doing tests flights and tuning the system controllers. His work was invaluable. Go to the source code section to access some of the code that made all this possible.

Watch our system rocking! In the video below, you can see our second and best attempt. Jesús Pestana is holding the RC and I am the one with the laptop. Remember that we are not controlling anything, but we have to be ready for a failure because our drone, with all the equipment, is pretty expensive and we put a lot of effort on it. Needless to say that the blades spin so fast that could cause serious injuries to somebody if the drone accidentally passed the net around the flying area. In case of emergency, I would press a key that would activate a low-level hover controller and then switch to an automatic landing mode. If this also failed, Jesús would take manual control with the RC and land it gently. Since this collaboration requires quick communication between us, we try to stay close to each other all the time. Obviously, the competition staff stayed close to verify that we were not cheating.

I must thank José Luis Sánchez López, Michele Pratusevich and Changhong Fu for their work building the test site in Spain and their help at the competition. Big thanks go to Pascual Campoy for his outstanding leadership of the group and for giving us the chance and resources to realize this dream. Thanks to Iván Mondragón for sharing his knowledge about the Pelican and helping us fixing it after our failed tests, and to all other CVG members for their help and support.

[UPDATE] Here are some related links:

  • A review of IMAV 2012 by Kirill, one of the attendants (with pictures)
  • News about our achievement
  • Article in the CVG's website
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