Flight of the Gumstix

COMs Power Research in Unmanned Aerial Vehicles

July 5, 2013 | Andrew Simpson

Over the last few months, we’ve seen lots of great research projects powered by Gumstix pop up in a variety of journals. We covered some of these last month in our article for Electronic Products magazine, which showcased many different kinds of projects going on in robotics right now. One of the most-watched areas in the field is that of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and we’ve certainly seen quite a few articles recently focused on them.

Real-Time Airborne Target Tracking and Laser-Navigated Indoor Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs)

Xiang Gao and his colleagues have developed a real-time, embedded video target tracking algorithm that can track multiple targets using a moving camera. The system automatically tracks targets picked up by the UAV’s onboard camera as it flies over them. Using a Gumstix Overo COM with an onboard DSP processor, the researchers were able to reduce video processing time by up to 60%, while still being able to fit desktop-like power directly onto a UAV.

Moving indoors, Fei Wang and his colleagues have designed a UAV that navigates indoors using a laser-range finder and an Overo Fire COM that handles control and navigation processing. By using a COM, the researchers have been able to leverage the wireless communications capabilities and processing power to deploy their navigation algorithms.

An Intelligent Portable Aerial Surveillance System and Flying WiFi

Meanwile, Ruixiang Du at Worcester Polytechnic Institute proposed an “Intelligent Portable Aerial Surveillance System” (or IPASS for short) for his Master’s thesis. IPASS, a U.S. Air Force-sponsored project, aims to “[develop] a low-cost, light-weight unmanned aerial vehicle that can provide sufficient battlefield intelligence for individual troops.” A Gumstix Overo FE COM is at the heart of IPASS’ communications subsystem, and communicates OpenCV processed images back to a base station via WiFi.

Finally, at the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne in Switzerland, the institution’s Information Processing Group, Laboratory for Intelligent Systems and SenseFly have developed “a project aimed at developing a testbed to experiment with self-organized wireless networks carried by autonomous unmanned aircrafts.” SenseFly-created UAVs will ultimately carry the infrastructure for a self-organized WiFi network with the goal of rapid deployment. The researchers hope that this technology can one day be used in applications such as remotely communicating with rescuers and people on the ground in the event of catastrophe. The onboard Gumstix Overo Tide connected to a USB wireless card provides small and light hardware with which to power the WiFi network.

These are just some of the great research projects in UAVs using Gumstix at the moment. If you know of any others, give us a shout in the comments below – we’d love to hear from you!