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Tiny Humanoid Robot Learning to Fly Real Airplanes

Tiny Humanoid Robot Learning to Fly Real Airplanes
By Evan Ackerman As much trouble as humanoid robots are to build and control, we keep on trying to make it work because it’s easiest to operate in a human environment if you can do the same things that a…

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An Algorithm That Decodes the Surface of the Earth

...Study published last week in the Journal of Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing, that describes an algorithm that can classify land cover types with minimal nudging from humans.

The problem, from a computational standpoint, is that hyperspectral sensors are too good at their jobs. Where most visual data assigns a single value (like color) to each pixel, hyperspectral data pixels each have hundreds, even thousands of values (see image to the left). Statistically, this makes each pixel seem unique to the computers tasked with classification. This is known as the Hughes effect, and it’s a huge problem because it cripples the potential of using hyperspectral data to rapidly update our knowledge about the condition of the earth’s surface.

Even if they can’t label the land cover types, hyperspectral imaging algorithms are usually able to put like pixels into groups based mostly on their proximity to one another. In the new study, the authors combined this clustering method with another technique that uses a small number of training samples to label each group of pixels.




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Simple set up for Turnigy 9XR (or similar) 6 position mode switching – No Hardware/Flashing Required

Until recently my main TX was a Turnigy 9X and I (like many others) was using a hacked in 6 position POT switch to select modes on my various aircraft. Unfortunately the 9X has died so has been replaced by a shiny new 9XR. Rather then hack apart the 9XR (too pretty) I wanted to experiment with using the existing controls to select modes on my aircraft. I have seen several tutorials on this but none met all of my requirements below. Apologies if I have simply rediscovered something already posted by someone else.

Not relying on guessing the position of the continuous POT switches Gives a easy to read visual indicator of current mode Uses only a single radio channel All performed with the default software and hardware – no flashing/hacking required

The method I used was to combine the 3 position switch (ID0/1/2) with the Aileron Dir switch. Between these two switches there are six possible combinations which neatly matches the 6 modes of the APM ecosystem.

I am using an 8 channel system and wanted to only use one channel for mode. To do this I created a “fake” channel 9 representing the position of the aileron switch which I then mixed with the results of the 3 position switch to achieve 6 switch combinations.


Step 1 – On the SETUP 02 page for the model in question change the Proto setting to add additional channels to the model (10CH in my example). As the hardware I use can only send/receive 8 channels these will be ignored by the TX/RX module.

Step 2 – on the MIXER page for the model Set the following Mixes (note that all values are minuses)
    CH5 -100% CH9 ID0
            -35% CH9 ID1
            -10% CH9 ID2

    CH9 -125% FULL AIL

This sets up the three position switch on channel 5 and then applies a large offset to the value from this switch based on the position of the Aileron Dir switch (CH9). The result is 6 possible channels as per the picture below that map neatly to the PWM inputs required by the APM. Note that you can set the actual mode to be whatever you want in MP.

One important note to consider – This switch combination has 2 very easy to use “panic” modes. At any time you can flip both switches up or both switches down with one movement that doesn't require much thought. I suggest you make sure that suitable modes are set up for these. My setup is to have FBWA (perhaps Stabilise for copter) when both switches are up and RTL when both switches are down. This came in handy the other day for me when due to a bad throttle calibration I had a copter shoot into the air uncommanded as soon as it armed - all I had to do was whack both switches down and let the APM do the rest all the way back to landing.

In theory the same mix should work on any TX with these capabilities. I hope this is helpful to people and happy to discuss or take feedback if there are better ways.

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Humanoid robot learns to fly a flight simulator!

This is both adorable and really cool. From IEEE Spectrum:

As much trouble as humanoid robots are to build and control, we keep on trying to make it work because it's easiest to operate in a human environment if you can do the same things that a human can. There are some good arguments for why it makes a lot more sense to modify our environments to better suit robots, but the fact is, if you can pull it off, humanoid is still the best way to go.

Even for flying airplanes.

If this sounds crazy to you, it sounded crazy to us too, until we saw it basically working at an IROS presentation.

The little robot in the picture above is a PIBOT, a small, very low-cost humanoid (actually a Bioloid Premium from Robotis). It's been slightly modified to be able to work the controls of a scaled-down, simulated aircraft cockpit, as in the pic above. PIBOT is able to identify and use all of the buttons and switches and stuff that you'd find in the cockpit of a normal light aircraft designed for humans:

Most of the inputs come from the simulator itself (roll, pitch, yaw, airspeed, GPS location), although the robot does use vision for some things, like identifying the runway using edge detection. And this is all it takes, according to the researchers, who state that: "PIBOT can satisfy the various requirements specified in the flying handbook by the Federal Aviation Administration."

You can see PIBOT rocking a simulation in the video below, and for you pilot-types, appended is a comprehensive description of what the robot is doing. Remember, this is all autonomous.

The airplane is initially parked on a runway of an airport. The robot prepares the flight by 1) pulling throttle to zero-point, 2) turning on the battery, 3) the altimeter, 4) the avionics, 5) the fuel pump, and 6) start the engine while pressing the switches on the panel. Then, PIBOT grabs the two control sticks for flight control and brakes are released. When the heading of the airplane aligns with the runway within an error less than 5 degree and its speed exceeds the taxiing speed, the second sequence begins and PIBOT increase the power. The airplane takes off at a proper speed and PIBOT controls both pitch and speed so that the vertical velocity of the airplane reaches the initial rate of climbs. At a certain distance from its departure, PIBOT starts Sequence 3. The airplane turns to the opposite direction, while maintaining its speed and altitude at their given references. In this sequence, PIBOT performs straight-and-level of flight, turns and climbs. In order to land on the runway, PIBOT turns the airplane while decreasing speed when it establishes an enough distance from the expected landing point. This is sequence 4, base leg. Final approach starts at the sequence 5. PIBOT aligns the aircraft with the runway and gradually pitch down at a slower speed. When it flies at around 20 feet above ground, it flares and gently lands on the ground.

Your question right now is probably the same as ours was: "when are you going to get it out of the simulator and flying a real plane?" That work will be presented at a forthcoming conference, but they're doing it already, and you can see a little teaser in the picture at the top of this article: the Macbook on the right is playing a video showing a little humanoid robot at the controls of a small-scale model biplane, flying it fully autonomously with its grippers on the controls.

The robot looked wasn't doing the best job keeping the model plane stable, but being a robot, it doesn't get airsick and puke all over the instrument panel like I would. It can do takeoffs, follow waypoints, maneuver, and make a final approach to landing, although at this point, it still needs some human help for the final touchdown. By the time the researchers publish, however, the 'bot may have nailed that too: there are still some perception challenges to solve, but they're getting very, very close.

A Robot-Machine Interface for Full-functionality Automation using a Humanoid, by Heejin Jeong, David Hyunchul Shim and Sungwook Cho from KAIST in South Korea, was presented yesterday at IROS 2014 in Chicago.

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Less than two weeks remaining to get this high-visibility vest for drone ops

Many of us recreational, semi-pro, and pro RPAS operators here on DIYDrones.com are fortunate enough to have had great dialogue with the public, sometimes even taking time off from our normal schedules or responsibilities to show others the wonders of robotic flight. Still, we are all to familiar with those few stories where the public has become confrontational with civilian and commercial drone operators.

In talking with the other board members of the Professional Society of Drone Journalists, we realized that some of these issues might be resolved with simple signage or clothing choices. Thus, we developed a high-visibility vest that both announces your profession, and keeps the public aware of nearby RPAS operations.

We originally designed these vests for RPAOs who are using their aircraft for news-gathering purposes. But besides the PSDJ logo, they are pretty universal and could be worn in any number of applications. Just please remember to operate responsibly when you wear the vest.

To get these vests out to operators, though, we need to sell at 50 by the deadline, which is in just 13 days. Proceeds will go to fund the DroneJournalism.org website (and hopefully in the future, more outreach and education opportunities).

From our Booster campaign:

We believe this high-visibility vest not only will support our mission, but also will provide our members and supporters with much-needed visibility in the field during drone operations. In addition, we hope this item will help improve the public opinion of drone journalists as responsible professionals who wish to keep the public alert of their news-gathering activities.

Our orange vests are being sold for $20 each. You can order one from the online Booster campaign.

Please note that they can not be mailed to anywhere outside the United States at this time. Our apologies with the shipping issue -- I was unware of that limitation, and we'll try better next time to make these items available internationally.

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