We are beginning a new project on indoor exploration using small Unmanned Air Systems (UAS). Colin Greatwood (shown right) is staying on after his PhD to develop new algorithms for exploring unknown environments without the use of GPS. These techniques will allow UAS to investigate hazardous environments such as collapsed buildings or damaged nuclear or chemical plants. This is a missing piece in a very big puzzle: we have worked on getting from A to B in cluttered environments and figuring out where the vehicle is without GPS: this project will help when we don't even know where B is and we need to explore.
A significant part of this project, funded by DSTL via the Centre for Defence Enterprise, is the equipment and commissioning of our large flying area at the Bristol Robotics Lab (BRL). Colin is shown in the arena flying a AR Drone Parrot quadrotor in the photo. With support from Vicon and dSpace, we will be equipping the arena with video tracking cameras and real-time control computing hardware. The result should be one of the largest instrumented flying arenas in Europe.