Indoor and outdoor in-flight odometry based solely on optic flows with oscillatory trajectories

  • Bergantin Lucia
  • Coquet C
  • Dumon Jonathan
  • Nègre Amaury
  • Raharijaona Thibaut
  • Marchand Nicolas
  • Ruffier Franck

  • Optic Flow
  • Oscillations
  • Visual odometry
  • Hexarotor
  • SOFIa
  • Indoor and outdoor flight tests
  • Aerial field robotics


Estimating distance traveled is a frequently arising problem in robotic applications designed for use in environments where GPS is only intermittently or not at all available. In UAVs, the presence of weight and computational power constraints makes it necessary to develop odometric strategies based on minimilastic equipment. In this study, a hexarotor was made to perform up-and-down oscillatory movements while flying forward in order to test a self-scaled optic flow based odometer. The resulting self-oscillatory trajectory generated series of contractions and expansions in the optic flow vector field, from which the flight height of the hexarotor could be estimated using an Extended Kalman Filter. For the odometry, the downward translational optic flow was scaled by this current visually estimated flight height before being mathematically integrated to obtain the distance traveled. Here we present three strategies based on sensor fusion requiring no, precise or rough prior knowledge of the optic flow variations generated by the sinusoidal trajectory. The “rough prior knowledge” strategy is based on the shape and timing of the variations in the optic flow. Tests were performed first in a flight arena, where the hexarotor followed a circular trajectory while oscillating up and down over a distance of about [Formula: see text] m under illuminances of [Formula: see text] lux and [Formula: see text] lux. Preliminary field tests were then performed, in which the hexarotor followed a longitudinal bouncing [Formula: see text]-long trajectory over an irregular pattern of grass.