Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Quanser UVS Lab Takes Flight at Moscow Aviation Institute

I have done a lot of traveling this year. Looking back, I realized recently that I spent pretty much a week per month out of the country from May until now. Quanser has customers in all sorts of far reaching and exciting parts of the world, and as an adopted associate member of the marketing team I’ve had opportunities to travel to some unique places this year. Of the places I’ve seen and universities I’ve visited, by far the most interesting and memorable was the Moscow Aviation Institute.

Peter Martin takes a moment to sit in the cockpit of a 20th century Russian jet while at the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI) on a 21st century mission: installing a Quanser UVS Lab at MAI's Robotic and Intelligent Systems department.. 
The goal of our visit was to “commission” a UVS Lab, the latest addition to the Robotic and Intelligent Systems department. Commissioning trips are traditionally the most fun for engineers at Quanser because we get to interact with customers and show off their fancy new equipment. In this case the Moscow Aviation Institute (MAI) had acquired a complete UVS Lab with four Qballs and a Qbot. This gave us plenty of toys to play with. Additionally as a graduate of University of Toronto Institute for Aerospace Studies (UTIAS) in Toronto, I was especially excited to experience the Russian equivalent of my alma mater.

Peter works with members of MAI's Robotic and Intelligent Systems department to ensure a smooth installation of the Quanser UVS Lab. 
The day began with a Christmas Day-esque box opening extravaganza with a whole room of boxes of various shapes and sizes to open. With that done, we moved on to setting up the OptiTrackSystem and various calibration and configuration tasks. After a delicious break for borscht and assorted Russian delicacies we moved on to the fun part - flight testing and cooperative autonomous missions. The UVS Lab comes with several preconfigured lab exercises and experimental missions. The most interesting of these are the cooperative missions which involve a Qball following a Qbot around the workspace. This offered some interesting challenges given the relatively small temporary workspace that was available at MAI, at one point resulting in the Qball landing on top of the Qbot.

A Qball and Qbot are put through their paces as part of the installation and flight testing process.  The research that the MAI team will tackle will be at the cutting edge of unmanned systems.
Despite the somewhat rough and ready interior of much of the university, an inheritance from the days of the Soviet Union, the research that the department will be tackling with the help of the UVS Lab will be at the cutting edge of unmanned systems. The team is planning to outfit their Qballs with several additional sensors, including GPS and additional sonar, to give them the ability to navigate independent of the motion tracking system. They then plan to use them as a dynamic team that can track both the ground vehicle and each other in a mobile workspace. I’m looking forward to following their progress in the months and years to come as their research takes our system above and beyond.

A final note: Russia is just the latest country where we've installed a UVS Lab for teaching and research. To find out what professors are doing with UVS Labs in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and China, click here.

- Peter Martin

Peter Martin is a Curriculum Developer at Quanser 

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