The past decade has seen an increased interest towards research involving Autonomous Micro Aerial Vehicles (MAVs). The predominant reason for this is their agility and ability to perform tasks too difficult or dangerous for their human counterparts and to navigate into places where ground robots cannot reach. Among MAVs, rotary wing aircraft such as quadrotors have the ability to operate in confined spaces, hover at a given point in space and perch1 or land on a flat surface. This makes the quadrotor a very attractive aerial platform giving rise to a myriad of research opportunities. The potential of these aerial platforms is severely limited by the constraints on the flight time due to limited battery capacity. This in turn arises from limits on the payload of these rotorcraft. By automating the battery recharging process, creating autonomous MAVs that can recharge their on-board batteries without any human intervention and by employing a team of such agents, the overall mission time can be greatly increased. This paper describes the development, testing, and implementation of a system of autonomous charging stations for a team of Micro Aerial Vehicles. This system was used to perform fully autonomous long-term multi-agent aerial surveillance experiments with persistent station keeping. The scalability of the algorithm used in the experiments described in this paper was also tested by simulating a persistence surveillance scenario for 10 MAVs and charging stations. Finally, this system was successfully implemented to perform a 9½ hour multi-agent persistent flight test. Preliminary implementation of this charging system in experiments involving construction of cubic structures with quadrotors showed a three-fold increase in effective mission time.
The development of autonomous Micro Aerial Vehicles (MAVs) is significantly constrained by their size, weight and power consumption. In this paper, we explore the energetics of quadrotor platforms and study the scaling of mass, inertia, lift and drag with their characteristic length. The effects of length scale on masses and inertias associated with various components are also investigated. Additionally, a study of Lithium Polymer battery performance is presented in terms of specific power and specific energy. Finally, we describe the power and energy consumption for different quadrotors and explore the dependence on size and mass for static hover tests as well as representative maneuvers.