Mission-level Robustness with Rapidly-deployed, Autonomous Aerial Vehicles by Carnegie Mellon Team Tartan at MBZIRC 2020

Anish Bhattacharya, Akshit Gandhi, Lukas Merkle, Rohan Tiwari, Karun Warrior, Stanley Winata, Andrew Saba, Kevin Zhang, Oliver Kroemer, Sebastian Scherer

For robotic systems to succeed in high risk, real-world situations, they have to be quickly deployable and robust to environmental changes, under-performing hardware, and mission subtask failures. These robots are often designed to consider a single sequence of mission events, with complex algorithms lowering individual subtask failure rates under some critical constraints. Our approach utilizes common techniques in vision and control, and encodes robustness into mission structure through outcome monitoring and recovery strategies. In addition, our system infrastructure enables rapid deployment and requires no central communication. This report also includes lessons in rapid field robotic development and testing. We developed and evaluated our systems through real-robot experiments at an outdoor test site in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA, as well as in the 2020 Mohamed Bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge. All competition trials were completed in fully autonomous mode without RTK-GPS. Our system placed fourth in Challenge 2 and seventh in the Grand Challenge, with notable achievements such as popping five balloons (Challenge 1), successfully picking and placing a block (Challenge 2), and dispensing the most water onto an outdoor, real fire with an autonomous UAV (Challenge 3).

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