Development, simulation and validation of a follow-me algorithm for UAS based on PX4
Tutor / director / evaluatorRemondo Bueno, David
Document typeMaster thesis
Rights accessRestricted access - confidentiality agreement
The commercial drone industry has seen a huge growth in the recent years. UAS regulations are being drafted all over the world, and many industries are looking to improve the efficiency and safety of their operations with the use of autonomous drones and robotics. Inspection and Maintenance (I&M) represents a large economic activity with a global market estimated at 450 billion Euros. Drone mapping is a new and growing area within the I&M market that has seen a lot of innovation in the past years thanks to advancements in both autonomous vehicles technology and photogrammetry/mapping software. This thesis focuses on the research and development (R&D) of the technology needed for mapKITE, the flagship drone-based mapping project of Geonumerics S.L. MapKITE is a new type of mapping concept, which combines two new paradigms: a new tandem terrestrial-aerial geodata acquisition technique and the use of a terrestrial vehicle to provide continuous Ground Control Point (GCP) information. In order to achieve the operational requirements of mapKITE, the company is developing a technology named vTether. The main challenge is that the current open-source follow-me flight mode does not match the technical requirements needed for a mapKITE mission. This work provides a solution to this problem and answers the question: what is the best way to support future mapKITE¿s operations in the long term? After many weeks of research and consultation with the PX4 community, the solution found was to: 1) modify a PX4 firmware v1.10 in order to enhance the basic follow-me flight mode available and 2) code a command line program that uses MAVSDK API to provide off-board control of the drone. The final part of the thesis includes the validation of the autopilot modifications with the help of Software in The Loop (SITL) simulations. The robotics simulator Gazebo was used for this purpose. We demonstrated the capacity of the custom PX4 version to provide a basic follow-me in 3D space at a speed of 19km/h. Future work involving the addition of a visual tracking system and artificial intelligence is discussed.