Quadcopters Play Catch

Mathematical models can fly aircraft under perfect conditions, but when there are deviations that need corrections, it gets a lot more tricky. In this case, learning algorithms were used to compensate when reality didn’t exactly match the predicted action. The results are pretty amazing!

Video: Throwing and catching an inverted pendulum – with quadrocopters – [robohub.org]

Two of the most challenging problems tackled with quadrocopters so far are balancing an inverted pendulum and juggling balls. My colleagues at ETH Zurich’s Flying Machine Arena have now combined the two.

Quadrocopter Pole Acrobatics – [youtube.com]

The Math

A quadrocopter with a plate for balancing the pole. The cross-shaped cut-outs are used for easy attachment to the vehicle and have no influence on the pendulum’s stability.

To achieve this feat, Dario and his supervisors Markus Hehn and Raffaello D’Andrea started with a 2D mathematical model. The goal of the model was to understand what motion a quadrocopter would need to perform to throw the pendulum. In other words, what is required for the pendulum to lift off from the quadrocopter and become airborne?

This first step allowed to determine (theoretical) feasibility. In addition, it showed the ideal trajectory in terms of positions, speeds, and angles the quadrocopter needed to follow to throw a pendulum. And it offered an insight into the throwing process, including identification of its key design parameters.

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