Aerial Humanoid Robotics

We give humanoid robots the ability to fly.

 

 


Why

There are plenty of situations where the capacities of the existing robots are not enough to accomplish all the needed operations. For instance, observe the picture below.

Collaboration scenario

This is the city of Natori, Japan, after the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami. On one hand, in these contexts humanoid robots may be employed for indoor inspection and manipulation tasks, but the robots would struggle with outdoor inspection. In fact, bipedal locomotion (i.e. walking) on difficult terrains remains a big challenge to these days. 

Video from DARPA Robotics Challenge: A Compilation of Robots Falling Down  

On the other hand, Aerial Manipulation conceives flying robots with robotic arms, thus circumventing the problem of terrestrial locomotion but preserving the capacity of manipulationg objects.

DLR aerial manipulator

Picture from DLR.de

These robots, however, struggle with moving in indoor and confined environments (e.g. inside houses), without considering their energy consumption during these tasks.


What

In light of the above, the current state of the art in Robotics lacks a platform able to combine the following capabilities:

1. Manipulation: to open doors, move objects, close valves, etc;

2. Aerial locomotion: to perform outdoor inspection and to move from one building to another

3. Bipedal Terrestrial locomotion: to perform indoor inspection and climb stairs

Hence, we define Aerial Humanoid Robotics as the outcome of the platforms having the three above capacities

Manipulation                                   +

Aerial locomotion                          +

Bipedal lerrestrial locomotion   =

Aerial Humanoid Robotics

 

Then, to implement the Aerial Humanoid Robotics, our main approach is to take the humanoid robot iCub and equip it with jet turbines

iCub with jets


How

To implement the Aerial Humanoid Robotics onto the humanoid robot iCub, we carry out research activities along different directions.

Research on the flight control of flying humanoid robots

We research on Lyapunov-quadratic-programming based control algorithms to regulate both the attitude and the position of the humanoid robot. The control algorithms work independently from the number of jet turbines installed on the robot, and ensure also that the satisfaction of some physical constraints associated with the jet engines (maximum derivative and positivity of the thrust, minimum and maximum robot joiunt angles, etc.)

 

 

The video above, for instance, uses a different jet configuration than the first (scroll up) in this page. This can be achieved easily using our control framework for flying humanoid robots.

Experimental research on jet turbines and co-design

To implement the Aerial Humanoid Robotics on the real iCub, we need experimental activities aimed at modelling and identification of the jet turbines. For this reason, we have developed sophisticated test-bench for identifying the input-output relationship of the jet turbines.

Jet turbines

Research on Computational Fluid Dynamics for aerodynamics modelling

The aerodynamics of a single rigid body is a complex matter. Consequently, dealing with the aerodynamics of a multi-body system - as a flying humanoid robot is - leavs little space for closed form expressions of the aerodynamic effects, and it is not what we aim to do. So, our approach to evaluate the aerodynamic effects on the flying humanoid robot is to perform CFD simulations using Ansys, and then extract a simplified model to use in the control deisgn.