Quadrotor Autonomous Drone Assists Naval Firefighters

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Researchers from Carnegie Mellon Universitys Robotics Institute and spin-off company Sensible Machines recently flew an autonomous drone through dark, smoke-filled compartments to map fires and locate victims. The demonstration was portion of an Office of Naval Research (ONR) project called Damage Control Technologies for the 21st Century (DC-21).

With the micro-advertisement, we wanted to play a part that it could autonomously navigate through the narrow hallways and doors  even in dense flare smoke  and deem fires, said Thomas McKenna, ONRs DC-21 program officer. It succeeded at each and the entire one those tasks.
In a authentic emergency, sponsorship gathered by the micro-commercial would be relayed to a large humanoid machine, the Shipboard Autonomous Firefighting Robot (SAFFiR). The robots would do something gone human firefighters to hurt fires and evacuate casualties.

Flying autonomously through narrow doorways in darkness and smoke poses a number of secret challenges for these small drones, said Sebastian Scherer, systems scientist at CMUs Robotics Institute. But this finishing, known as fast lightweight autonomy, will have numerous applications greater than shipboard fires, such as psychotherapy of building fires and inspection of hazardous chemical tanks and facility tree-tree-plant cooling towers.

The challenges begin once the size of the drones. To fit through the 26-inch-broad hatches of the ex-USS Shadwell, a ship in Mobile, Ala., used to exam firefighting techniques, Sensible Machines built a quadrotor just 23-inches wide and 12-inches high  a bit smaller than those typically used by hobbyists.
The drone was skillful to negotiate the tight spaces. But its smaller rotors edited its efficiency, limiting its flight times to nearly five minutes. Sensible Machines is now building a drone thats just 16 inches wide but replaces the four rotors when a single ducted follower taking into account two larger, counter-rotating propellers. Scherer said the larger rotors do its stuff more efficiently and are anticipated to boost flight time to 30 minutes.

The primary sensor used by the drone to construct its map of ember areas is a RGB-D camera, or severity camera, bearing in mind that of a Kinect game controller. It actually works greater than before in the dark, Scherer noted, because theres less ambient dynamic to interfere in imitation of the infrared well-ventilated the camera projects. Other researchers have tried using severity cameras to restructure mapping, he said, but have had limited carrying out because they yet rely primarily roughly visual features, once elevation opinion used supplementally.

We flipped it as regards, using mainly the intensity camera to construct our maps, Scherer said. In adding together to the RGB-D camera, the drone uses a talk to-looking infrared (FLIR) camera to detect fires and people and a downward-facing optical flow camera to monitor the motion of the drone itself.



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