A Survey on 3D Visual Tracking of Multicopters


Three-dimensional (3D) visual tracking of a multicopter (where the camera is fixed while the multicopter is moving) means continuously recovering the six-degree-of-freedom pose of the multicopter relative to the camera. It can be used in many applications, such as precision terminal guidance and control algorithm validation for multicopters. However, it is difficult for many researchers to build a 3D visual tracking system for multicopters (VTSMs) by using cheap and off-the-shelf cameras. This paper firstly gives an over- view of the three key technologies of a 3D VTSMs: multi-camera placement, multi-camera calibration and pose estimation for multi-copters. Then, some representative 3D visual tracking systems for multicopters are introduced. Finally, the future development of the 3D VTSMs is analyzed and summarized.


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This work was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (No. 2017YFB1300102) and National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 61803025).

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Qiang Fu.

Additional information

Recommended by Associate Editor Nazim Mir-Nasiri

Qiang Fu received the B. Sc. degree in thermal energy and power engineering from Beijing Jiaotong University, China in 2009, and the Ph. D. degree in control science and engineering from Beihang University (formerly Beijing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics), China in 2016. He is currently a lecturer in the School of Automation and Electrical Engineering, University of Science and Technology Beijing, China.

His research interests include vision-based navigation and 3D vision.

Xiang-Yang Chen received the B. Sc. degree in the electrical engineering and automation from Soochow University, China in 2017. He is currently a master student in control engineering at the School of Automation, University of Science and Technology Beijing, China.

His research interests include flapping-wing aircraft and machine vision.

Wei He received the B. Eng. degree in automation and the M. Eng. degree in control science and engineering, both from College of Automation Science and Engineering, South China University of Technology (SCUT), China in 2006 and 2008, respectively, and the Ph. D. degree in control theory and control engineering from Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, the National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore in 2011. He is currently working as a full professor in School of Automation and Electrical Engineering, University of Science and Technology Beijing, China. He has co-authored 2 books published in Springer and published over 100 international journal and conference papers. He has been awarded a Newton Advanced Fellowship from the Royal Society, UK. He is a recipient of the IEEE SMC Society Andrew P. Sage Best Transactions Paper Award in 2017. He is the Chair of IEEE SMC Society Beijing Capital Region Chapter. He serves as an Associate Editor of IEEE Transactions on Neural Networks and Learning Systems, IEEE Transactions on Control Systems Technology, IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics: Systems, IEEE/CAA Journal of Automatica Sinica, Neurocomputing, and an Editor of Journal of Intelligent & Robotic Systems. He is the member of the International Federation of Automatic Control Technical Committee (IFAC TC) on Distributed Parameter Systems, IFAC TC on Computational Intelligence in Control and IEEE Control Systems Society (CSS) TC on Distributed Parameter Systems.

His research interests include robotics, distributed parameter systems and intelligent control systems.

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Fu, Q., Chen, XY. & He, W. A Survey on 3D Visual Tracking of Multicopters. Int. J. Autom. Comput. 16, 707–719 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11633-019-1199-2

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  • Multicopter
  • three-dimensional (3D) visual tracking
  • camera placement
  • camera calibration
  • pose estimation