Aerial Humanoid Robotics intro

Aerial Humanoid Robotics

We give humanoid robots the ability to fly.

[aerial] Why

Why

Every year, about 300 natural disasters kill around 90.000 humans and affect 160 million people across the world. When analysed individually, the balance of natural disasters may be even more frightening. The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami killed around 230.000 humans on 14 countries, caused 140.000 wounded, and consequently 1.74 million people had to be taken care and displaced. 

Unfortunately, robotics is still lagging behind to offer affordable solutions in these disaster scenarios.  Humanoid robots may be employed for indoor inspection and manipulation tasks, but the robots would struggle with outdoor inspection. Bipedal locomotion (i.e., walking) on difficult terrains remains a big challenge to these days. On the other hand, aerial manipulation conceives flying robots with robotic arms, thus circumventing the problem of terrestrial locomotion but preserving the capacity of manipulating objects.  These robots, however, struggle with moving in indoor and confined environments (e.g., inside houses), without considering their energy consumption during these tasks.

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[aerial] What

What

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

  • Manipulation: to open doors, move objects, close valves;
  • Aerial locomotion: to perform outdoor inspection and to move from one building to another;
  • 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.

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[aerial] How

How

To implement the aerial humanoid robotics onto the humanoid robot iCub, we carry out research activities along with different directions.

[aerial] Research on the flight control of flying humanoid robots

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 (e.g., maximum derivative and positivity of the thrust, minimum and maximum robot joint angles).

[Aerial] Experimental research on jet turbines and co-design

Experimental research on jet turbines and co-design

To implement the aerial humanoid robotics on the real iCub, we need experimental activities aimed at modeling and identification of the jet turbines. For this reason, we have developed a sophisticated test bench for identifying the input/output relationship of the jet turbines.

[aerial] Research on Computational Fluid Dynamics for aerodynamics modelling

Research on computational fluid dynamics for aerodynamics modeling

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 - leaves 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 design.