Engineers from the University of Zurich (Switzerland) have presented a fundamentally new collision avoidance system for drones - there is nothing faster and more accurate in the world yet. They proceeded from the fact that reaction rates of 20-40 milliseconds, as in many commercial unmanned systems, are not enough to organize the safe movement of high-speed flying drones. To demonstrate the capabilities of their brainchild, the Swiss used the bouncer game, teaching drones to masterly dodge balls flying at them.
The problem with drones' reaction time to obstacles has two roots. First, the high speed of movement of flying vehicles in comparison with ground ones. Secondly, weak computing power, due to which the on-board systems do not have time to analyze the situation and recognize the interference. As a solution, the engineers replaced the sensors with "event cameras", increasing the response speed to 3.5 milliseconds.
Event camera in action
The event camera only reacts to changes in the brightness of individual pixels in the frame and ignores others, so it needs to process very little information in order to detect a moving object against a static or sedentary background. Hence the high reaction rate, but in the course of practical experiments it turned out that neither the existing drones nor the cameras themselves are suitable for this purpose. The merit of the Swiss engineers is that they remade both the cameras and the quadcopter platform, plus they developed the necessary algorithms, in fact, creating a new system.
When playing bouncer, a drone with such a system in 90% of cases manages to dodge the ball, which is thrown at it at a speed of 10 m / s from a distance of only 3 m.And this is in the presence of only one camera, if the size of the interference is known in advance - and the presence two cameras allows him to accurately calculate all the parameters of the interference and make the right decision. Now engineers are working on checking the system in motion, when flying on difficult routes. According to their calculations, as a result, UAVs will be able to fly ten times faster than now, without the risk of collision.