Monday, 5 July 2010

IMAV at RAF Waddington Airshow

I attended the RAF Waddington Airshow to exhibit research work on the DSTL stand in the UAV hangar.  In particular, the Intelligent Micro Air Vehicle (IMAV) was on static display (right).  (The cable and hanging wire were just for the exhibition - normally it is wireless and free-flying.)

The IMAV project combines Visual Simultaneous Localisation and Mapping (VSLAM) with guidance and control techniques to provide an autonomous indoor surveillance capability.  Users such as fire and rescue responders or police would use it for first investigations in hazardous situations.  It navigates solely by its own vision, making it independent of GPS, and does not require a skilled pilot.  Ince the research is focussed on the algorithms for control and navigation, the development hardware is deliberately simple: we use a modified radio-controlled toy helicopter and a commercial Wi-Fi webcam, again modified to suit SLAM.

As well as discussing UAV technology and research with a diverse audience, the airshow gave an opportunity to get up close with some UAV hardware.  For example, here's a picture of my car next to Watchkeeper (left).  Not much street cred I admit, but it's always difficult to get a sense of scale from UAV photos.

Thanks to Chris Jones from DSTL for giving us the opportunity to exhibit.

Background: IMAV is a joint project between the Departments of Computer Science and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Bristol.  It is funded by PhD studentships from the Faculty of Engineering with initial support from DSTL.  PhD students John Bartholemew (CS) and Kieran Wood (AE) are supervised by Drs. Andrew Calway (CS), Walterio Mayol-Cuevas (CS), Tom Richardson (AE) and Arthur Richards (AE).

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