Flying over uneven moving terrain based on optic-flow cues without any need for reference frames or accelerometers

  • Expert Fabien
  • Ruffier Franck

  • Panoramic optic-flow
  • Non-stationary environment
  • No referenced states
  • Bio-inspired autopilot


Two bio-inspired guidance principles involving no reference frame are presented here and were implemented in a rotorcraft, which was equipped with panoramic optic flow (OF) sensors but (as in flying insects) no accelerometer. To test these two guidance principles, we built a tethered tandem rotorcraft called BeeRotor (80 grams), which was tested flying along a high-roofed tunnel. The aerial robot adjusts its pitch and hence its speed, hugs the ground and lands safely without any need for an inertial reference frame. The rotorcraft's altitude and forward speed are adjusted via two OF regulators piloting the lift and the pitch angle on the basis of the common-mode and differential rotor speeds, respectively. The robot equipped with two wide-field OF sensors was tested in order to assess the performances of the following two systems of guidance involving no inertial reference frame: (i) a system with a fixed eye orientation based on the curved artificial compound eye (CurvACE) sensor, and (ii) an active system of reorientation based on a quasi-panoramic eye which constantly realigns its gaze, keeping it parallel to the nearest surface followed. Safe automatic terrain following and landing were obtained with CurvACE under dim light to daylight conditions and the active eye-reorientation system over rugged, changing terrain, without any need for an inertial reference frame.