Stereo Vision Based Obstacle Avoidance on Flapping Wing MAVs

One of the major challenges in robotics is to develop a fly-like robot that can autonomously fly around in unknown environments. State-of-the-art research on autonomous flight of light-weight flapping wing MAVs uses information such as optic flow and appearance variation extracted from a single camera, and has met with limited success. This paper presents the first study of stereo vision for onboard obstacle detection. Stereo vision provides instantaneous distance estimates making the method less dependent than single camera methods on the camera motions resulting from the flapping. After hardware modifications specifically tuned to use on a flapping wing MAV, the computationally efficient Semi-Global Matching (SGM) algorithm in combination with off-board processing allows for accurate real-time distance estimation. Closed-loop indoor experiments with the flapping wing MAV DelFly II demonstrate the advantage of this technique over the use of optic flow measurements.