Flying fast and low among obstacles

Sebastian Scherer, Sanjiv Singh, Lyle Chamberlain, Srikanth Saripalli

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution

85 Scopus citations


Safe autonomous flight is essential for widespread acceptance of aircraft that must fly close to the ground. We have developed a method of collision avoidance that can be used in three dimensions in much the same way as autonomous ground vehicles that navigate over unexplored terrain. Safe navigation is accomplished by a combination of online environmental sensing, path planning and collision avoidance. Here we report results with an autonomous helicopter that operates at low elevations in uncharted environments some of which are densely populated with obstacles such as buildings, trees and wires. We have recently completed over 1000 successful runs In which the helicopter traveled between coarsely specified waypoints separated by hundreds of meters, at speeds up to 10 meters/sec at elevations of 5-10 meters above ground level. The helicopter safely avoids large objects like buildings and trees but also wires as thin as 6 mm. We believe this represents the first time an air vehicle has traveled this fast so close to obstacles. Here we focus on the collision avoidance method that learns to avoid obstacles by observing the performance of a human operator.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publication2007 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, ICRA'07
Number of pages7
StatePublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes
Event2007 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, ICRA'07 - Rome, Italy
Duration: Apr 10 2007Apr 14 2007

Publication series

NameProceedings - IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation
ISSN (Print)1050-4729


Other2007 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, ICRA'07

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Software
  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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