A Fully-Autonomous Aerial Robot for Search and Rescue Applications in Indoor Environments using Learning-Based Techniques

Abstract

Search and Rescue (SAR) missions represent an important challenge in the robotics research field as they usually involve exceedingly variable-nature scenarios which require a high-level of autonomy and versatile decision-making capabilities. This challenge becomes even more relevant in the case of aerial robotic platforms owing to their limited payload and computational capabilities. In this paper, we present a fully-autonomous aerial robotic solution, for executing complex SAR missions in unstructured indoor environments. The proposed system is based on the combination of a complete hardware configuration and a flexible system architecture which allows the execution of high-level missions in a fully unsupervised manner (i.e. without human intervention). In order to obtain flexible and versatile behaviors from the proposed aerial robot, several learning-based capabilities have been integrated for target recognition and interaction. The target recognition capability includes a supervised learning classifier based on a computationally-efficient Convolutional Neural Network (CNN) model trained for target/background classification, while the capability to interact with the target for rescue operations introduces a novel Image-Based Visual Servoing (IBVS) algorithm which integrates a recent deep reinforcement learning method named Deep Deterministic Policy Gradients (DDPG). In order to train the aerial robot for performing IBVS tasks, a reinforcement learning framework has been developed, which integrates a deep reinforcement learning agent (e.g. DDPG) with a Gazebo-based simulator for aerial robotics. The proposed system has been validated in a wide range of simulation flights, using Gazebo and PX4 Software-In-The-Loop, and real flights in cluttered indoor environments, demonstrating the versatility of the proposed system in complex SAR missions.

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Acknowledgements

This work was supported by the Spanish Ministry of Science (Project DPI2014-60139-R). The LAL UPM and the MONCLOA Campus of International Excellence are also acknowledged for funding the predoctoral contract of the corresponding author.

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Correspondence to Carlos Sampedro.

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Sampedro, C., Rodriguez-Ramos, A., Bavle, H. et al. A Fully-Autonomous Aerial Robot for Search and Rescue Applications in Indoor Environments using Learning-Based Techniques. J Intell Robot Syst 95, 601–627 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10846-018-0898-1

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Keywords

  • Autonomous robots
  • Search and rescue
  • Supervised learning
  • Reinforcement learning
  • Deep learning
  • Image-based visual servoing