Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Autonomous Flying Robots: Davide Scaramuzza at TEDxZurich

This talk is about autonomous, vision-controlled micro flying robots. Micro flying robots are vehicles that are less than 1 meter in size and weigh less than 1kg. Potential applications of these robots are search and rescue, inspection, environment monitoring, etc. Additionally, they can complement human intervention in all those environments where no human can access to (such as a searching for survivors in a damaged building after an earthquake), thus, reducing the risk for the human rescuers. In all these applications, current flying robots are still tele-operated by expert professionals.

Indeed, in order to be truly autonomous, current flying robots rely on GPS or motion-capture systems. Unfortunately, GPS does not work indoors, while motion-capture systems require prior modification of the environment where the robots are supposed to operate, which is not possible in environments that are still to be explored. Therefore, my idea consists of using just cameras onboard the robot. Cameras do for a robot what eyes do for a human. They allow it to perceive the environment and safely navigate within it without bumping into obstacles. Additionally, they allow it to build a map of the environment which can be used to plan the intervention of human rescuers. This talk presents our progress towards this endeavor, open challenges, and future applications.
Davide Scaramuzza (born 1980 in Italy) is Professor of Robotics at the Artificial Intelligence Lab of the University of Zurich where he leads the Robotics and Perception Group and Adjunct Faculty at ETH Zurich of the Master in Robotics Systems and Control. He received his PhD in 2008 in Robotics and Computer Vision at ETH Zurich. He was Postdoc a both ETH Zurich and the University of Pennsylvania , where he worked on autonomous navigation of micro aerial vehicles. From 2009 to 2012, he led the European project "sFly" (, which focused on autonomous navigation of micro helicopters in GPS-denied environments using vision as the main sensor modality. For his research, he was awarded the Robotdalen Scientific Awards (2009) and the European Young Researcher Award (2012), sponsored by the IEEE and the European Commission. He is coauthor of the 2nd edition of the book "Introduction to Autonomous Mobile Robots" (MIT Press). He is also author of the first open-source Omnidirectional Camera Calibration Toolbox for MATLAB (a popular software simulation tool), which, besides thousands of downloads worldwide, is also currently in use at NASA, Philips, Bosch, and Daimler. His research interests are field and service robotics, intelligent vehicles, and computer vision. Specifically, he investigates the use of cameras as the main sensors for robot navigation, mapping, exploration, reasoning, and interpretation. His interests encompass both ground and flying vehicles.
In the spirit of ideas worth spreading, TEDx is a program of local, self-organized events that bring people together to share a TED-like experience. At a TEDx event, TEDTalks video and live speakers combine to spark deep discussion and connection in a small group. These local, self-organized events are branded TEDx, where x = independently organized TED event. The TED Conference provides general guidance for the TEDx program, but individual TEDx events are self-organized.* (*Subject to certain rules and regulations)

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