back to article Robo-drones learn to land by going bug-eyed

Landing a flying object can't be that hard: even bees can manage it. That's why researchers from Sweden, Germany and Australia have looked at what bees could teach about landing strategies for unmanned aircraft. Of course, if your UAV is a quad-copter with a human operator or good automation, landing isn't so hard: return it to …

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Grab a tele.

The formula they are looking for could easily be derived by using a SLR with a telephoto lens. Adjusting for aperture and/or focus while you quickly zoom is an effective model for this.

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Re: Grab a tele.

I'd go with a light field camera. Minimal focusing necessary.

Altitude clues would be provided by a wide lens, where the surrounding surface expands rapidly at lower altitudes.

Master how bees land on a level surface, the next hurdle would be how they land on a moving flower.

Master that and have 100% foolproof carrier landings too.

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Thumb Up

"They used a spiral pattern to confuse the bees and trick them into crash landing."

Made me laugh far more than it should have.

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Re: "They used a spiral pattern to confuse the bees and trick them into crash landing."

Ditto

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Re: "They used a spiral pattern to confuse the bees and trick them into crash landing."

me three,

i want that job, does this mean a set of increasingly difficult set of landing conditions leading to awesome top gun bees ?

maybe some obstacle courses ....

and by extension robust drones, but I prefer to concentrate on the bees.

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Childcatcher

Re: "They used a spiral pattern to confuse the bees and trick them into crash landing."

It made me wonder what would happen if someone projected a moving image onto the landing pad of an UAV. Perhaps the best defense against the drones of the future will be a disco ball.

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Joke

Re: "They used a spiral pattern to confuse the bees and trick them into crash landing."

Bad, BAD scientists! Who do they think they are, making the poor bees get dizzy so they fall down.

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You can see it in their eyes

They have compound eyes. When the target fills up a certain percentage of the bee's eyes then they have arrived.

If a thing is below a certain level of cells then you are going to fly above it.

If there is a bright pretty blue light . . . oh so pretty . . . (DON'T FLY INTO THE LIGHT!) . . . ZAP! Aggghhh . . .

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Bees are a bad example

Bees crash land all the time, even without a spiral pattern. High speed films of bees flying around and landing show they are horrible flyers, and Mother Nature's solution was to make them rugged as hell, and make a lot of them per colony. If one breaks, another can take its place. Not sure if designers are going to take the cue.

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Re: Bees are a bad example

You're destroying my idea of strapping bees to the head of UAVs and let them do their beeish things to control the aircraft.

But for the described model to work it doesn't matter whether bees are good flyers or landers. All that matters is that it's a simple model that could easily be implemented and is independent of other high-tech stuff such as GPS.

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Happy

Re: Bees are a bad example

"You're destroying my idea of strapping bees to the head of UAVs and let them do their beeish things to control the aircraft."

Well there was a project in the 50's for homing pigeons to used for ballistic missile guidance (back when inertial measurement packages weighed several hundred pounds.

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Re: Bees are a bad example

John Smith 19,

That's where I've got the idea from :-) Can't remember though why the pigeons were abandoned. Couldn't they distinguish between foe and friend ships? Did they get bored pecking and started to wank? Or was it "f*ck, I'm going to crash! I quit."

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Coat

Re: Bees are a bad example

> a project in the 50's for homing pigeons to used for ballistic missile guidance

See B. F. Skinner the 'operant conditioning' psychologist.

I'll get me coat, 'coz that's what I'm conditioned for when I've finished a post.

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Happy

Bee-ave... (sorry)

'They used a spiral pattern to confuse the bees and trick them into crash landing.'

As if bees don't have enough problems.

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Neat trick of abstractiong out all the confusing data to get the simple algorithm underneath.

It does sound like the sort of thing you could do with a couple of cameras and cheap lenses.

Note that word universal as well.

This could be the core for a whole new generation of UAV control systems.

Thumbs up for this.

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@John Smith 19

Actually it was a glide bomb guidance idea in WW2. Project Pigeon:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Pigeon

I saw this in a documentary a few years ago and apparently it was working pretty well.

It was revived as Project Orcon in '48, but that was cancelled in '53 because electronic guidance systems were starting to work reasonably well, and were more practical than using "wetware".

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It strikes me though...

That while the landing may be simplified using this approach, it's going to be hard to implement a flight path using it. It does tend to lend itself to a constant aspect ratio approach, as used by gliders and paragliders.

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Re: It strikes me though...

I agree that this approach will handle the final approach quite nicely since its pretty close to what is taught and I do in a glider, though I wouldn't dream of using it for speed control (the ASI does a better job). However it breaks down in the final stages of landing because it offers no help judging when to flair or for flying a fully held-off landing: that is best done by monitoring landing area perspective changes after flairing.

IOW, any algorithm based solely on monitoring the expansion of a view of the landing spot is unlikely to be successful for landing a fixed-wing aircraft because it implies that the aircraft speed will become zero at or immediately before touch-down. However, it may work for aircraft with hovering ability, e.g helicopters and quadra- or hexacopter UAVs.

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Mushroom

"by the time you make contact you’re moving at almost zero speed"

Err, but bees don't have to worry about stalling if they go below a certain airspeed.

Icon because...

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Re: "by the time you make contact you’re moving at almost zero speed"

True, however add a laser measure and you can calculate how wide the landing strip/space is which then means you can calculate how fast you need to be going when you hit it.

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Re: "by the time you make contact you’re moving at almost zero speed"

When you HIT it? VSI zero, or close. How big are your oleo's?

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Just in time

I look forward to seeing this implemented for the landing system in LOHAN. It would make quite a change from the "identify tree, crash into tree" approach that SPB have favoured so far.

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Re: Just in time

Aah, why change a tested and reliable system?

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Mushroom

non-insect drones

So all we need is a insect drone to strap a bomb on to make it useful for military applications.

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