Why we are interested in AR-Parrot Drone 2 and quadrotor use for our lab?
The MURO lab uses the AR-Parrot Drone 2, a quadcopter with strong ROS communication capabilities and multiple cameras. We are using AR-Parrot Drone 2's so that we can provide ourselves with a flexible testbed for implementing various multi-agent robotic algorithms, such as swarming, formation control, cyclic pursuit, and so on. Quadrotors in particular gives us more relaxed dynamic constraints because they are omnidirectional, meaning that we can now work along the z-axis allowing us to extend experiments for our 3D multi-agent algorithms. The MURO lab's research is mostly on multi-agent robotics with either unicycle or omni-directional dynamics so quadrotors is a perfect fit for our lab.
The MURO lab utilizes ROS (Robot Operating System) which is a software library which allows for strong communication capabilities accross a wifi network using a hybrid systems that run linux, android, windows or Max OS. The AR-Parrot Drone 2 is an even stronger fit for our lab because of the extensive ROS package "Ardrone Autonomy" developed by AutonomyLab, making us capable of controlling quadcopters with the same algorithms we use for the turtlebots, or any other system in the future.
The quadcopters also come equipped with both a front and bottom facing camera. We currently utilize the front facing camera to run ORB-SLAM (Oriented FAST and Rotated BRIEF - Simultaneous Localization and Mapping), a monocular SLAM algorithm which provides a local point cloud map of the quadcopters surroundings and online estimations of the quadcopters location with respect to the map. Our lab has developed modifications to ORB-SLAM that allows us to run multiple Quadcopters capable exploring and localizing in the same map. The AR-Parrot Drone 2's video stream and ROS capabilities make it possible for the quadcopters to build and share a map, where they can execute location based multi-agent robot algorithms unrestricted to lab the lab environment.
The AR-Parrot Drone 2's are capable of being used outside of the lab due to their ability to localize themselves, meaning we don't need extra equipment such as external cameras for localization. In the future we are interested in using the AR-Parrot Drone 2's outside or in large indoor areas with walls and obsticles which will add complexity to our deployment algorithms.