The future of flying robots | Vijay Kumar | TEDxPenn

Translator: Ivana Korom
Reviewer: TED Translators admin In my lab, we build
autonomous aerial robots like the one you see flying here. Unlike the commercially available drones
that you can buy today, this robot doesn’t have any GPS on board. So without GPS, it’s hard for robots like this
to determine their position. This robot uses onboard sensors,
cameras and laser scanners, to scan the environment. It detects features from the environment, and it determines where it is
relative to those features, using a method of triangulation. And then it can assemble
all these features into a map, like you see behind me. And this map then allows the robot
to understand where the obstacles are and navigate in a collision-free manner. What I want to show you next is a set of experiments
we did inside our laboratory, where this robot was able
to go for longer distances. So here you’ll see, on the top right,
what the robot sees with the camera. And on the main screen… And of course this is sped up
by a factor of four… On the main screen you’ll see
the map that it’s building. So this is a high-resolution map
of the corridor around our laboratory. And in a minute
you’ll see it enter our lab, which is recognizable
by the clutter that you see. (Laughter) But the main point I want to convey to you is that these robots are capable
of building high-resolution maps at five centimeters resolution, allowing somebody who is outside the lab,
or outside the building to deploy these
without actually going inside, and trying to infer
what happens inside the building. Now there’s one problem
with robots like this. The first problem is it’s pretty big. Because it’s big, it’s heavy. And these robots consume
about 100 watts per pound. And this makes for
a very short mission life. The second problem is that these robots have onboard sensors
that end up being very expensive… A laser scanner, a camera
and the processors. That drives up the cost of this robot. So we asked ourselves a question: what consumer product
can you buy in an electronics store that is inexpensive, that’s lightweight,
that has sensing onboard and computation? And we invented the flying phone. (Laughter) So this robot uses a Samsung Galaxy
smartphone that you can buy off the shelf, and all you need is an app that you
can download from our app store. And you can see this robot
reading the letters, “TED” in this case, looking at the corners
of the “T” and the “E” and then triangulating off of that,
flying autonomously. That joystick is just there
to make sure if the robot goes crazy, Giuseppe can kill it. (Laughter) In addition to building
these small robots, we also experiment with aggressive
behaviors, like you see here. So this robot is now traveling
at two to three meters per second, pitching and rolling aggressively
as it changes direction. The main point is we can have
smaller robots that can go faster and then travel in these
very unstructured environments. And in this next video, just like you see this bird, an eagle,
gracefully coordinating its wings, its eyes and feet
to grab prey out of the water, our robot can go fishing, too. (Laughter) In this case, this is a Philly cheesesteak
hoagie that it’s grabbing out of thin air. (Laughter) So you can see this robot
going at about three meters per second, which is faster than walking speed,
coordinating its arms, its claws and its flight with split-second timing
to achieve this maneuver. In another experiment, I want to show you
how the robot adapts its flight to control its suspended payload, whose length is actually larger
than the width of the window. So in order to accomplish this, it actually has to pitch
and adjust the altitude and swing the payload through. But of course we want
to make these even smaller, and we’re inspired
in particular by honeybees. So if you look at honeybees,
and this is a slowed down video, they’re so small,
the inertia is so lightweight… (Laughter) that they don’t care… They bounce off my hand, for example. This is a little robot
that mimics the honeybee behavior. And smaller is better, because along with the small size
you get lower inertia. Along with lower inertia… (Robot buzzing, laughter) along with lower inertia,
you’re resistant to collisions. And that makes you more robust. So just like these honeybees,
we build small robots. And this particular one
is only 25 grams in weight. It consumes only six watts of power. And it can travel
up to six meters per second. So if I normalize that to its size, it’s like a Boeing 787 traveling
ten times the speed of sound. (Laughter) And I want to show you an example. This is probably the first planned mid-air
collision, at one-twentieth normal speed. These are going at a relative speed
of two meters per second, and this illustrates the basic principle. The two-gram carbon fiber cage around it
prevents the propellers from entangling, but essentially the collision is absorbed
and the robot responds to the collisions. And so small also means safe. In my lab, as we developed these robots, we start off with these big robots and then now we’re down
to these small robots. And if you plot a histogram
of the number of Band-Aids we’ve ordered in the past, that sort of tailed off now. Because these robots are really safe. The small size has some disadvantages, and nature has found a number of ways
to compensate for these disadvantages. The basic idea is they aggregate
to form large groups, or swarms. So, similarly, in our lab,
we try to create artificial robot swarms. And this is quite challenging because now you have to think
about networks of robots. And within each robot, you have to think about the interplay
of sensing, communication, computation… And this network then becomes
quite difficult to control and manage. So from nature we take away
three organizing principles that essentially allow us
to develop our algorithms. The first idea is that robots
need to be aware of their neighbors. They need to be able to sense
and communicate with their neighbors. So this video illustrates the basic idea. You have four robots… One of the robots has actually been
hijacked by a human operator, literally. But because the robots
interact with each other, they sense their neighbors, they essentially follow. And here there’s a single person
able to lead this network of followers. So again, it’s not because all the robots
know where they’re supposed to go. It’s because they’re just reacting
to the positions of their neighbors. (Laughter) So the next experiment illustrates
the second organizing principle. And this principle has to do
with the principle of anonymity. Here the key idea is that the robots are agnostic
to the identities of their neighbors. They’re asked to form a circular shape, and no matter how many robots
you introduce into the formation, or how many robots you pull out, each robot is simply
reacting to its neighbor. It’s aware of the fact that it needs
to form the circular shape, but collaborating with its neighbors it forms the shape
without central coordination. Now if you put these ideas together, the third idea is that we
essentially give these robots mathematical descriptions
of the shape they need to execute. And these shapes can be varying
as a function of time, and you’ll see these robots
start from a circular formation, change into a rectangular formation,
stretch into a straight line, back into an ellipse. And they do this with the same
kind of split-second coordination that you see in natural swarms, in nature. So why work with swarms? Let me tell you about two applications
that we are very interested in. The first one has to do with agriculture, which is probably the biggest problem
that we’re facing worldwide. As you well know, one in every seven persons
in this earth is malnourished. Most of the land that we can cultivate
has already been cultivated. And the efficiency of most systems
in the world is improving, but our production system
efficiency is actually declining. And that’s mostly because of water
shortage, crop diseases, climate change and a couple of other things. So what can robots do? Well, we adopt an approach that’s
called Precision Farming in the community. And the basic idea is that we fly
aerial robots through orchards, and then we build
precision models of individual plants. So just like personalized medicine, while you might imagine wanting
to treat every patient individually, what we’d like to do is build
models of individual plants and then tell the farmer
what kind of inputs every plant needs… The inputs in this case being water,
fertilizer and pesticide. Here you’ll see robots
traveling through an apple orchard, and in a minute you’ll see
two of its companions doing the same thing on the left side. And what they’re doing is essentially
building a map of the orchard. Within the map is a map
of every plant in this orchard. (Robot buzzing) Let’s see what those maps look like. In the next video, you’ll see the cameras
that are being used on this robot. On the top-left is essentially
a standard color camera. On the left-center is an infrared camera. And on the bottom-left
is a thermal camera. And on the main panel, you’re seeing
a three-dimensional reconstruction of every tree in the orchard
as the sensors fly right past the trees. Armed with information like this,
we can do several things. The first and possibly the most important
thing we can do is very simple: count the number of fruits on every tree. By doing this, you tell the farmer
how many [fruits] she has in every tree and allow her to estimate
the yield in the orchard, optimizing the production
chain downstream. The second thing we can do is take models of plants, construct
three-dimensional reconstructions, and from that estimate the canopy size, and then correlate the canopy size
to the amount of leaf area on every plant. And this is called the leaf area index. So if you know this leaf area index, you essentially have a measure of how much
photosynthesis is possible in every plant, which again tells you
how healthy each plant is. By combining visual
and infrared information, we can also compute indices such as NDVI. And in this particular case,
you can essentially see there are some crops that are
not doing as well as other crops. This is easily discernible from imagery, not just visual imagery but combining both visual imagery and infrared imagery. And then lastly, one thing we’re interested in doing is
detecting the early onset of chlorosis… And this is an orange tree… Which is essentially seen
by yellowing of leaves. But robots flying overhead
can easily spot this autonomously and then report to the farmer
that he or she has a problem in this section of the orchard. Systems like this can really help, and we’re projecting yields
that can improve by about ten percent and, more importantly, decrease
the amount of inputs such as water by 25 percent by using
aerial robot swarms. A second application area
is in first response. This is a picture of the Penn campus, actually south of the Penn campus,
the South Bank. I want you to imagine a setting where there might be an emergency call
from a building, a 911 call. By the time the police get there,
it might take a valuable 5-10 minutes. But imagine now, robots respond. And you have a whole swarm of them, flying to the scene autonomously,
just triggered by a 911 call or by a dispacher. By the way, if someone is here
from the FAA, this was actually shot in South America. (Laughter) So, robots arrive at the scene, and they’re all equipped
with downward facing cameras, and they can monitor the scene. And they do this autonomously, so by the time a human first responder
or a police officer gets there, they have access
to all kinds of information. So on the top left,
you see the central screen that a dispacher might see, which is telling her
where the robots are flying and how they’re encircling the building. And the robots are autonomously deciding
which ingress poins should be assigned to what robot. On the top right, you essentialy see
images from the robots being assembled into a mosaic. Which again, gives the first responder
some idea of what activity is going on at the scene. And on the bottom, you can see
a three-dimensional reconstruction that we developed on the fly. In addition to working outside buidlings, we’re also interested
in going inside buidlings, and I want to show you
an experiment we did three years ago where our aerial robot –
one exactly like this one – is collaborating with a ground robot, in this case it’s actually hitching a ride
with a ground robot, because it’s programmed to be lazy,
to save power. So, as it goes up,
the two travel in tandem, and this is a collapsed building
after an earthquake, this is shortly after the 2011 earthquake
in Fukushima. When the robots get stuck
in front of a collapsed doorway, our tobot takes off
and is able to fly over the obstacles around the obstacles, and generate a three-dimensional map,
in this case of a bookcase. And it’s able to see
what’s on the other side. Something fairly simple,
but it’s hard to do with ground robots, and certainly hard to do with humans
when there’s potential for harm. So these two robots
are collaboratively building these maps, and, again,
when the first responders come, they can be quick with these maps. So let me show you
what some of these maps look like. So this is a three storey building, the seventh, eighth and what remains
of the ninth floor on top, and we were able to construct this map
using this team of two robots, operating in tandem, autonomously. However, this experiment took us
two and a half hours to complete. Now, no first responder
is going to give you two and a half hours
to do this experiment, before he or she wants to rush in. They might give you
two and a half minutes, you’ll be lucky if you get
two and a half seconds. But now that’s where robot swarms
come in. Imagine if you could send in
a hundred of these robots, like the little ones
that we were just flying, and imagine they went in
and generated maps like this well before humans actually arrived
on the scene. And that’s the vision
we’re working towards. So, let me conclude with a movie –
a Warner brothers movie – of an upcoming –
right next in your theatre, The Swarm!
The Swarm is coming! And I love this poster,
actually if you’ve seen the movie, you’re probably dating yourself if you have not seen the movie,
I encourage you not to see it, it’s a terrible movie, (Laughter) It’s about killer bees, attacking men
and killing them and so on. But everything about this poster is true,
which is why I like it. “Its size is immeasurable” –
I hope I’ve convinced you that “its power is limitless”, and even this last bit is true, “its enemy is man”,
the technology is here today and it’s people like us that are standing between this technology
and its applications. The swarm is coming,
this is not science fiction, in fact, this is what lies ahead. Lastly, I want you to applaud
the people who actually create the future, Yash Mulgaonkar, Sikang Liu
and Giuseppe Loianno, who are responsible for the three
demonstrations that you saw. Thank you. (Applause)


  1. One indian guy who told about Drone Advantage and Disadvantage in Pennsylvania. but if you Come from india or you think do something like this in your country india. it's not Possible Bcoz you Need to import Some Drone And Parts From China or Hongkong.
    After that You face customs issue. Required Some Government Licence (NOC) for fly This type of Drone Or Heli and taking Licence from Government Authority it is not Easy Task.
    why i told this bcoz we have good knowledge but we don't have any platform to show our knowledge …………….

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