Extremely light-weight Autonomous MAVs

Micro Air Vehicles (MAVs) are becoming ever smaller and lighter. This opens new areas of application, mainly because of the capability to access small spaces. A straightforward example of such an application is building inspection. In such a case there is in general no prior knowledge about the environment. Furthermore there will be no direct communication between MAV and operator due to signal blocking, and GPS positioning is not possible for the same reason. These restrictions require the MAV to perform several autonomous tasks: attitude control, obstacle avoidance, navigation etc.

Extremely light-weight MAVs are very limited in the amount of available onboard sensors and processing power. This project aims at developing an onboard system that provides the resources required for full autonomy. It should enable the MAV to perform the following tasks:

  1. determine safe directions of flight
  2. explore the environment efficiently and thoroughly
  3. find out how to enter new spaces to increase the exploration area
  4. find its way back to previously visited points

This system will be used for and tested on DelFly, a Flapping Wing MAV of less than 20 grams developed by TUDelft. The dimensions of this MAV demand a system that makes use of an extremely efficient combination of sensor types, data processing algorithms and control loops. This will lead to approaches that are more biologically inspired than current state-of-the-art avoidance and mapping methods. The main focus will be on using cameras and vision-based methods. The objective is to develop a vision-based system that can be carried onboard a light weight MAV (<20 grams) which enables fully autonomous operation in GPS-denied environments.





  • [PDF] [DOI] C. De Wagter, S. Tijmons, B. D. W. Remes, and G. C. H. E. de Croon, “Autonomous flight of a 20-gram flapping wing mav with a 4-gram onboard stereo vision system,” Ieee international conference on robotics & automation (icra), p. 4982–4987, 2014.
    abstract = {Autonomous flight of Flapping Wing Micro Air Vehicles (FWMAVs) is a major challenge in the field of robotics, due to their light weight and the flapping-induced body motions. In this article, we present the first FWMAV with onboard vision processing for autonomous flight in generic environments. In particular, we introduce the DelFly ‘Explorer', a 20-gram FWMAV equipped with a 0.98-gram autopilot and a 4.0-gram onboard stereo vision system. We explain the design choices that permit carrying the extended payload, while retaining the DelFly's hover capabilities. In addition, we introduce a novel stereo vision algorithm, LongSeq, designed specifically to cope with the flapping motion and the desire to attain a computational effort tuned to the frame rate. The onboard stereo vision system is illustrated in the context of an obstacle avoidance task in an environment with sparse obstacles.},
    author = {De Wagter, C. and Tijmons, S and Remes, B. D. W. and de Croon, G. C. H. E.},
    doi = {10.1109/ICRA.2014.6907589},
    isbn = {9781479936847},
    issn = {10504729},
    journal = {IEEE International Conference on Robotics {\&} Automation (ICRA)},
    pages = {4982--4987},
    title = {Autonomous Flight of a 20-gram Flapping Wing MAV with a 4-gram Onboard Stereo Vision System},
    year = {2014},
    pdf = {http://www.delfly.nl/publications/delfly_onboard_stereovision.pdf},


  • [PDF] J. L. Verboom, S. Tijmons, C. De Wagter, B. Remes, R. Babuska, and G. C. H. E. de Croon, “Attitude and altitude estimation and control on board a flapping wing micro air vehicle,” in 2015 ieee international conference on robotics and automation (icra), 2015, p. 5846–5851.
    author = {Verboom, J. L. and Tijmons, S. and De Wagter, C. and Remes, B. and Babuska, R. and de Croon, G. C. H. E.},
    title = {Attitude and altitude estimation and control on board a Flapping Wing Micro Air Vehicle},
    booktitle = {2015 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA)},
    year = {2015},
    month = {may},
    publisher = {IEEE},
    pages = {5846--5851},
    pdf = {http://www.delfly.nl/publications/onboard_attitude_control_plain.pdf},
  • [DOI] J. A. Koopmans, S. Tijmons, C. De Wagter, and G. C. H. E. de Croon, “Passively stable flapping flight from hover to fast forward through shift in wing position,” International journal of micro air vehicles, vol. 7, iss. 4, 2015.
    abstract = {Flapping Wing Micro Air Vehicles (FWMAVs) hold the potential to both cover large distances and perform precision flights when arrived at destination. However, flying at different speeds leads to a complex control problem for attitude stabilization. Inspired by nature, we present a morphing mechanism that allows tailed FW- MAVs to have a passively stabilized attitude both in fast forward flight and in slow hovering flight. The mechanism displaces the wings and hence aerodynamic center. It is implemented on the DelFly II and tested in-flight in a motion tracking arena. The experimental tests show that the morphing mechanism indeed allows to fly passively stable in multiple flight modes. Just changing the aerodynamic center allows the DelFly II to fly fast forward ({\~{}} 6 m/s, pitch attitude of 10°), transition to slow forward flight ({\~{}} 0.8 m/s, pitch attitude of 55°), and back. The proposed mechanism paves the way for FWMAVs performing long range missions such as search-and-rescue.},
    author = {Koopmans, J.A. and Tijmons, S. and De Wagter, C. and de Croon, G. C. H. E.},
    isbn = {10.1260/1756-8293.7.4.407},
    journal = {International Journal of Micro Air Vehicles},
    language = {en},
    month = {jan},
    number = {4},
    publisher = {Multi Science Publishing},
    title = {Passively Stable Flapping Flight From Hover to Fast Forward Through Shift in Wing Position},
    doi = {10.1260/1756-8293.7.4.407},
    volume = {7},
    year = {2015},


  • [DOI] K. Y. W. Scheper, S. Tijmons, C. C. de Visser, and G. C. H. E. de Croon, “Behaviour trees for evolutionary robotics,” Artificial life, vol. 22, iss. 1, p. 23–48, 2016.
    author = {Scheper, Kirk Y W and Tijmons, Sjoerd and de Visser, Cornelius C and de Croon, Guido C H E},
    doi = {10.1162/ARTL_a_00192},
    eprint = {arXiv:1411.7267v1},
    isbn = {1064-5462$\backslash$n1530-9185},
    issn = {10645462},
    journal = {Artificial life},
    keywords = {Behaviour Tree,Evolutionary Robotics,Reality Gap},
    number = {1},
    pages = {23--48},
    pmid = {23373976},
    title = {Behaviour Trees for Evolutionary Robotics},
    volume = {22},
    url = {http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/10.1162/ARTL_a_00192},
    year = {2016},
  • [PDF] K. Lamers, S. Tijmons, C. De Wagter, and G. de Croon, “Self-supervised monocular distance learning on a lightweight micro air vehicle,” in Intelligent robots and systems (iros), 2016 ieee/rsj international conference on, 2016, p. 1779–1784.
    title = {Self-supervised monocular distance learning on a lightweight micro air vehicle},
    author = {Lamers, Kevin and Tijmons, Sjoerd and De Wagter, Christophe and de Croon, Guido},
    booktitle = {Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS), 2016 IEEE/RSJ International Conference on},
    keywords = {DelFly,MAVLab},
    pages = {1779--1784},
    year = {2016},
    organization = {IEEE},
    pdf = {https://www.researchgate.net/publication/311757884_Self-supervised_monocular_distance_learning_on_a_lightweight_micro_air_vehicle},


  • S. Tijmons, G. C. H. E. de Croon, B. D. W. Remes, C. De Wagter, and M. Mulder, “Obstacle avoidance strategy using onboard stereo vision on a flapping wing mav,” Ieee transactions on robotics, 2017.
    title = {Obstacle avoidance strategy using onboard stereo vision on a flapping wing MAV},
    author = {Tijmons, Sjoerd and de Croon, Guido C.H.E. and Remes, Bart D.W. and De Wagter, Christophe and Mulder, Max},
    journal = {IEEE Transactions on Robotics},
    year = {2017},
    publisher = {IEEE},


  • [DOI] S. Tijmons, C. de Wagter, B. Remes, and G. {de Croon}, “Autonomous door and corridor traversal with a 20-gram flapping wing mav by onboard stereo vision,” Aerospace — open access aeronautics and astronautics journal, vol. 5, iss. 3, 2018.
    title = {Autonomous Door and Corridor Traversal with a 20-Gram Flapping Wing MAV by Onboard Stereo Vision},
    author = {Sjoerd Tijmons and de Wagter, Christophe and Bart Remes and {de Croon}, Guido},
    year = {2018},
    month = {6},
    doi = {10.3390/aerospace5030069},
    volume = {5},
    journal = {Aerospace — Open Access Aeronautics and Astronautics Journal},
    issn = {2226-4310},
    publisher = {MDPI publishing},
    number = {3},

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