Motion Planning for a UAV with a Straight or Kinked Tether

Xuesu Xiao, Jan Dufek, Mohamed Suhail, Robin Murphy

This paper develops and compares two motion planning algorithms for a tethered UAV with and without the possibility of the tether contacting the confined and cluttered environment. Tethered aerial vehicles have been studied due to their advantages such as power duration, stability, and safety. However, the disadvantages brought in by the extra tether have not been well investigated by the robotic locomotion community, especially when the tethered agent is locomoting in a non-free space occupied with obstacles. In this work, we propose two motion planning frameworks that (1) reduce the reachable configuration space by taking into account the tether and (2) deliberately plan (and relax) the contact point(s) of the tether with the environment and enable an equivalent reachable configuration space as the non-tethered counterpart would have. Both methods are tested on a physical robot, Fotokite Pro. With our approaches, tethered aerial vehicles could find their applications in confined and cluttered environments with obstacles as opposed to ideal free space, while still maintaining the advantages from the usage of a tether. The motion planning strategies are particularly suitable for marsupial heterogeneous robotic teams, such as visual servoing/assisting for another mobile, tele-operated primary robot.

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