A new drone navigates underground environments autonomously using a laser mapping system.
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Autonomous vehicles are providing solutions to many jobs that have long proved dangerous or impractical for humans, whether that’s helping to manage forest fires or monitoring poachers, and now a new drone is aiming to make underground exploration safer, too.
TILT Ranger, by Inkonova, is designed to meet the varied challenges of underground environments and mineshafts, featuring both wheels and flying rotors to navigate the varied terrain. The drone’s autonomous navigation system is being developed to operate in tight spaces, using tilt-able rotors for fine and rapid manoeuvrability that will function even when GPS can no longer reach it. With light being an issue underground, TILT Ranger features a 3-camera laser-mapping system that the drone uses as a feedback system to guide itself forward (a Simultaneous Localization And Mapping method developed in collaboration with Clickmox Solutions). The robust wheels are able to carry the drone up and over rocky terrain, while the propellors are kept safe from unexpected collisions by a housing system, with a single battery charge providing 20-minutes of flight power. Being able to bear a 1kg load, the drone can be fitted with a variety of cameras and sensors specific to project needs and so could be seen in a range of applications in the near future.
As well as providing safe, advanced tools in industrial settings, drones are now making their way into homes as, for example, a mobile security system, so in what other unexpected places could we see drones in the future?