Vision-guided Quadrotor Perching on Imperfectly Cylindrical Structures

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The design of aerial robots capable of perching poses significant challenges, from requiring pilots to master precise manoeuvres, to devising hardware and software capable of adapting to diverse perch structures and complex field environments. The Slapper drone presented in this paper tackles these challenges through three main innovations. First, a lightweight, vision-based system for autonomous perch detection using onboard flight hardware detects (imperfect) cylindrical objects found in both natural and artificial environments. Second, an onboard flight planning algorithm autonomously handles the detection, approach and perching flight phases, removing the need for a pilot. Third, a completely passive gripper utilises bistable shell structures to allow for perching on general long narrow features without any precise control inputs or power consumption. This design was successfully validated through both simulation and multiple indoor flights to result in reliable autonomous quadrotor perching in real-world environments.