Autonomous Robots

, Volume 33, Issue 1–2, pp 5–20 | Cite as

3-D relative positioning sensor for indoor flying robots

  • James F. RobertsEmail author
  • Timothy Stirling
  • Jean-Christophe Zufferey
  • Dario Floreano


Swarms of indoor flying robots are promising for many applications, including searching tasks in collapsing buildings, or mobile surveillance and monitoring tasks in complex man-made structures. For tasks that employ several flying robots, spatial-coordination between robots is essential for achieving collective operation. However, there is a lack of on-board sensors capable of sensing the highly-dynamic 3-D trajectories required for spatial-coordination of small indoor flying robots. Existing sensing methods typically utilise complex SLAM based approaches, or absolute positioning obtained from off-board tracking sensors, which is not practical for real-world operation. This paper presents an adaptable, embedded infrared based 3-D relative positioning sensor that also operates as a proximity sensor, which is designed to enable inter-robot spatial-coordination and goal-directed flight. This practical approach is robust to varying indoor environmental illumination conditions and is computationally simple.


Relative positioning sensing Indoor flying robots Collective operation 3D sensor Spatial-coordination Proximity sensing 



We would like to thank the people who assisted with the automated calibration system and fabrication of ten 3-D sensor rings: IRIDIA, Université Libre de Bruxelles; Ali Emre Turgut, Arne Brutschy, Manuele Brambilla, Nithin Mathews. LIS, Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL); Thomas Schaffter, Peter Dürr, Jürg Germann, Yannick Gasser, Michal Dobrzynski, Yannick Gasser. We would also like to thank Michael Bonani and Philippe Rétornaz for providing valuable feedback during the design phase. Finally, we would like to thank the following people for providing the ABB robot, wheeled robot and mechanical interface: LRSO, EPFL; Lionel Flaction, Tarek Baaboura, Prof. Reymond Clavel, Dr. Francesco Mondada. This work is part of the Swarmanoid project, Future Emerging Technologies (FET IST-022888), funded by the European commission. Additional funding has also come from the Swiss National Science Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • James F. Roberts
    • 1
    Email author
  • Timothy Stirling
    • 1
  • Jean-Christophe Zufferey
    • 1
  • Dario Floreano
    • 1
  1. 1.Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)Laboratory of Intelligent Systems (LIS)LausanneSwitzerland

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