Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Electrical & Systems Engineering

First Advisor

Vijay Kumar

Second Advisor

Nathan Michael

Abstract

Micro aerial vehicles (MAVs) are ideal platforms for surveillance and search and rescue in confined indoor and outdoor environments due to their small size, superior mobility, and hover capability. In such missions, it is essential that the MAV is capable of autonomous flight to minimize operator workload. Despite recent successes in commercialization of GPS-based autonomous MAVs, autonomous navigation in complex and possibly GPS-denied environments gives rise to challenging engineering problems that require an integrated approach to perception, estimation, planning, control, and high level situational awareness. Among these, state estimation is the first and most critical component for autonomous flight, especially because of the inherently fast dynamics of MAVs and the possibly unknown environmental conditions. In this thesis, we present methodologies and system designs, with a focus on state estimation, that enable a light-weight off-the-shelf quadrotor MAV to autonomously navigate complex unknown indoor and outdoor environments using only onboard sensing and computation. We start by developing laser and vision-based state estimation methodologies for indoor autonomous flight. We then investigate fusion from heterogeneous sensors to improve robustness and enable operations in complex indoor and outdoor environments. We further propose estimation algorithms for on-the-fly initialization and online failure recovery. Finally, we present planning, control, and environment coverage strategies for integrated high-level autonomy behaviors. Extensive online experimental results are presented throughout the thesis. We conclude by proposing future research opportunities.

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