Aerial Robotics: a Bird's-Eye View


Pascal Morin (UPMC-CNRS)
Philippe Bidaud (Onera)

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After manufacturing, ground transportation and medicine, robotics has now made an incursion in the field of aerial applications. Several domains, such as mapping, shooting, monitoring of indoor and outdoor 3D environments, agriculture and traffic monitoring, surveillance of sensitive areas, structure inspection, handling and carrying of heavy loads, and physical interventions now seek to exploit what are commonly called "drones". While these unmanned aerial vehicles (whether called UAV, UAS, or RPAS) have reached a fair degree of maturity, as witnessed by their success in entirely new aerial missions (dangerous, long, tedious, etc.), their capabilities and their performance generally remain limited. These systems are still endowed with scant autonomy capabilities, in particular with regard to their capacity for sensing and interacting with their environment, and significant progress is expected in this direction. Other topics of practical importance concern energetic autonomy (i.e., the capacity to fly longer), or avionic architecture in relation with security issues. Robotics will undoubtedly play a major role in replacing humans onboard these aerial vehicles. Robotics is one of the scientific fields of information science that relies on computer science, automatic control and signal and image processing. The involvement of several of these different aspects in the development of next generation unmanned aerial vehicles is discussed in the articles contained in this special issue.