As part of our ongoing UAV project, we set a date for a mid-term demonstration including several UAVs and an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV). A large group of people showed up, including DRDC program director Ken Hitchmough and scientist Camille-Allain Rabbath, Hugh Liu, Professor at University of Toronto with several graduate students, and an ample team of Quanser employees. Unfortunately, we picked a day when the weather was exceptionally un-cooperative. Heavy snowfall and high winds had been building up and we caught by unseasonably cold snowy October weather. Nonetheless, our guests braved the weather and we were determined to show them something interesting.
The snow wasn't so bad, but the high winds prevented us from flying the helicopter, and when we tried to fly our fixed-wing Zagi UAVs they had a tough time fighting the winds. We did, however, get the UGV to drive around. The UGV can be driven using a joystick, or in this case it drives autonomously to a given GPS location. Its on-board GPS sensor is used by the on-board controller to steer and drive the UGV to the desired position, in this case a blue tarp.
Had the weather cooperated, we would use the fixed-wing UAVs to fly a search pattern, using on-board cameras to find the blue tarp target. Image processing blocks scan the images in real time and look for the target based on size and color. These UAVs then signal a helicopter, which goes in at a lower altitude to verify the target's position using its on-board camera. Once the target position is verified, the helicopter transmits its location to the UGV so it can drive to the target. All of these tasks are completed autonomously with each vehicle's controller running on-board the vehicle itself. The operators can sit at the base station and track each vehicle's progress, but when everything goes well we just sit back and watch it all happen.
Overall, we gave it our best despite the weather, and it was a great opportunity to "show and tell" our work. The next time we schedule a demo it will be summer - but before that a video from our cold demo day will come.