Taking First Place at IMAV 2016 Drone Competition


The IMAV (International Micro Air Vehicle) conference and competition is a yearly flying robotics competition hosted by a different University every year. AKAMAV – a university student group at TU Braunschweig in Germany – have written up a fascinating and detailed account of what it was like to compete (and take first place) in 2016’s eleven-mission event hosted by the Beijing Institute of Technology.

AKAMAV’s debrief of IMAV 2016 is well-written and insightful. It covers not only the five outdoor and six indoor missions, but also details what it was like to prepare for and compete in such an intensive event. In their words, “If you share even a remote interest in flying robots and don’t mind the occasional spectacular crash, this place was Disney Land on steroids.”

indoor-missions

The eleven missions were inspired by a hypothetical oil spill on an oil platform. They included:

Outdoor Missions:

  1. Takeoff from a moving and rocking platform
  2. Live mapping of a mission area to identify targets of interest
  3. Precise delivery of a life buoy / life-preserver
  4. Collection and delivery of a water sample
  5. Landing on the same moving and rocking platform

Indoor Missions:

  1. Takeoff from a moving platform
  2. Enter a target building from doorway, chimney, or window
  3. Map the inside of the building
  4. Pickup and release of specific objects (i.e. find specific objects and move them to designated locations)
  5. Exit the building
  6. Land on a moving platform

Multiple drones could be used but teams scored better the smaller the drones were, the more missions were done in a single flight, and the higher the difficulty of the challenges (i.e. choosing to land on a moving versus stationary platform.) Human piloting was a permitted option for the indoor missions, but for the outdoor missions flight had to be autonomous. Overall the less humans were involved, the better the team’s score.

drones-for-imav2016

For the outdoor missions, AKAMAV used two identical 550mm quads with 600g payloads. Flight controller was a pixhawk with APM:Copter and an onboard companion PC for other tasks, plus other components as needed. the indoor missions were 60mm Tiny Whoop quads for the starting, entering, and landing portions. The indoor mapping and pickup-and-release missions were handled by a modified 250mm racer using a 360 degree camera combined with Pix4D software.

The entire after-action report is worth a read but in particular their approach for the live mapping of an outdoor area is interesting. AKAMAV stated that there is no plug-and-play solution for live mapping an outdoor area, so they focused on that and were confident they could pull a win over their competition. They planned a hybrid approach of balancing on-board processing with off-board processing to use the strengths of each. In this they were not completely successful, but still happy with their results. “We succeeded somehow with a not so beautiful, yet real-time stitched map. […] In the end 5 out of 6 targets can be recognized, making us one of few teams solving the live mapping mission at IMAV 2016.” Check out their published conference paper: Towards a Real-Time Image Mosaicing Solution.

Embedded below is an early video of AKAMAV’s maiden test flight carrying their chosen 360-degree camera (a Ricoh Theta S) which they would later use to generate the 3D point cloud for indoor mapping at IMAV 2016. If you’re not familiar with these videos, pan around by clicking and dragging.