Cool Multirotor Transformer

If there is anything we like more than Robots, it’s a Swarm of Robots (a self-assembling swarm is even better!).

Let’s face it. Individual drones are passé. Millions were sold as toys last year. This is hardly cutting edge. (I’m talking to you William Gibson and Cory Doctorow).

Multiple UAVs, working together is where it’s at now.  While there is a lot of cool cooperating robots coming out of Dot CH (Switzerland), we can be sure that Asia is in the game too.

This month at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA) in Singapore. Moju Zhao and colleagues from U. Tokyo presented the latest developments in their “Transformable Multirotor with Multilinks” [2].

(They really need a catchy name for this device. A TMuMu? The Magic Mover?)

The basic idea is a reconfigurable group of simple rotors linked together. The group can transform into different shapes to do different things.

The canonical example is to form a compact circle for flight, unfold into a “U” shape to engulf a target, and then close around it to grasp the target and carry it away.

This is really cool!

It looks simple, but there is a lot of fiddly detail to get this to work: the tricky thing about a multipurpose aircraft is that there are so many possibilities that have to be simulated and controlled. Earlier papers explain some of the complicated details (e.g., [1]).

The recent paper and video shows that the TMuMu not only flies (which is amazing) but can pick up and deliver cargo, too.  They term this “whole body manipulation”, referring to the fact that the entire device works as the manipulator.

Very nice work!

  1. Moju Zhao, Koji Kawasaki, Kei Okada and Masayuki Inaba Transformable multirotor with two-dimensional multilinks: modeling, control, and motion planning for aerial transformation. Advanced Robotics, 30 (13):825-845, 2016/07/02 2016.
  2. Moju Zhao, Koji Kawasaki, Xiangyu Chen, Shintaro Noda, Kei Okada, and Masayuki Inaba, Whole-body Aerial Manipulation by Transformable Multirotor with Two-dimensional Multilinks, in 2017 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA). 2017: Singapore.


Robot Wednesday

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