Wednesday, June 22, 2016

2016-06-22: Autonomy Incubator Demos for IAOP

PI Jim Neilan discusses our indoor flight range.
Today brought important visitors for the Autonomy Incubator (Ai), as Tzu-Hsien Yen of NASA's Aircraft Management Division, Munro Dearing from the IAOP (Intercenter Aircraft Operations Panel), Langley Research Center (LaRC) Head of UAV Operations Office Tommy Jordan, and LaRC Research Services Director, Shane Dover came to Building 1222 for a brief tour and demonstration.

Shane Dover and Tsu-Hsien Yen examine Orange 1.
As the Ai pursues its mission of autonomous flight, we are working with the UAV Ops team to create operational and maintenance procedures that account for how safe, reliable, and benign our UAV research platforms are. Small UAVs are different from manned aircraft— which is currently how our quadrotors, Hex Flyers, and octorotors are designated. As we move forward, we hope to innovate all of aviation with us by showing that our small UAVs are trustworthy enough to perform less-restricted research flights in the national airspace.

During the demo, intern Deegan Atha presented his object recognition algorithm, which allows an autonomous UAV to distinguish between obstacles and determine the safest way to avoid them. After Deegan wrapped up, PI Jim Nielan gave an overview of the Ai's aerial vehicles and then handed off to our UAV pilot Zak Johns flew two different micro-UAVs and one large quadcopter of his own design before answering questions from the visitors.

Zak Johns offers to let one of the visitors hold a UAV to see how lightweight it is.
The focus of the indoor flight demonstration was to show how robust and reliable the vehicles in the Ai are, both in hardware and software.

"All the carbon on these is aerospace-grade carbon," Zak explained to the assembled crowd.

Zak demonstrates the quick-release mechanism on his octorotor.
After Zak's presentation, PI Ben Kelley gave an abbreviated version of the Ai's famous Dances With Drones demo (#DancesWithDrones) to drive home how reliable our path-planning and object-avoidance algorithms are. Overall, our visitors left Building 1222 with a thorough impression of how seriously we take safety and robustness in our UAV research platforms.

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