Autonomous flying blimp interaction with human in an indoor space

  • Ning-shi Yao
  • Qiu-yang Tao
  • Wei-yu Liu
  • Zhen Liu
  • Ye Tian
  • Pei-yu Wang
  • Timothy Li
  • Fumin ZhangEmail author


We present the Georgia Tech Miniature Autonomous Blimp (GT-MAB), which is designed to support human-robot interaction experiments in an indoor space for up to two hours. GT-MAB is safe while flying in close proximity to humans. It is able to detect the face of a human subject, follow the human, and recognize hand gestures. GT-MAB employs a deep neural network based on the single shot multibox detector to jointly detect a human user’s face and hands in a real-time video stream collected by the onboard camera. A human-robot interaction procedure is designed and tested with various human users. The learning algorithms recognize two hand waving gestures. The human user does not need to wear any additional tracking device when interacting with the flying blimp. Vision-based feedback controllers are designed to control the blimp to follow the human and fly in one of two distinguishable patterns in response to each of the two hand gestures. The blimp communicates its intentions to the human user by displaying visual symbols. The collected experimental data show that the visual feedback from the blimp in reaction to the human user significantly improves the interactive experience between blimp and human. The demonstrated success of this procedure indicates that GT-MAB could serve as a flying robot that is able to collect human data safely in an indoor environment.

Key words

Robotic blimp Human-robot interaction Deep learning Face detection Gesture recognition 

CLC number



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Copyright information

© Zhejiang University and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Electrical and Computer EngineeringGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA
  2. 2.College of ComputingGeorgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaUSA

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