Optic Flow Based Autopilots: Speed Control and Obstacle Avoidance

  • Franceschini Nicolas
  • Ruffier Franck
  • Serres Julien

  • Forward Speed
  • Flight Pattern
  • Aerial Robot
  • Dung Beetle
  • Optic Flow


The explicit control schemes presented here explain how insects may navigate on the sole basis of optic flow (OF) cues without requiring any distance or speed measurements: how they take off and land, follow the terrain, avoid the lateral walls in a corridor and control their forward speed automatically. The optic flow regulator, a feedback system controlling either the lift, the forward thrust or the lateral thrust, is described. Three OF regulators account for various insect flight patterns observed over the ground and over still water, under calm and windy conditions and in straight and tapered corridors. These control schemes were simulated experimentally and/or implemented onboard two types of aerial robots, a micro helicopter (MH) and a hovercraft (HO), which behaved much like insects when placed in similar environments. These robots were equipped with opto-electronic OF sensors inspired by our electrophysiological findings on houseflies' motion sensitive visual neurons. The simple, parsimonious control schemes described here require no conventional avionic devices such as range finders, groundspeed sensors or GPS receivers. They are consistent with the the neural repertoire of flying insects and meet the low avionic payload requirements of autonomous micro aerial and space vehicles.