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DARPA Test-Flies Autonomous Quadcopter Platform

DARPA QuadropterA team of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency researchers has flown a new multirotor unmanned aerial vehicle to gather data about its capabilities as part of the agency’s Fast Lightweight Autonomy program.

DARPA said Friday it is exploring algorithms under the program in an effort to reduce the amount of UAV processing power, communications and required human intervention as well as to enable small UAV navigation in complex indoor environments.

The agency built an FLA quadcopter drone using a DJI Flamewheel 450 airframe, 12-inch E600 propellers, and a 3DR Pixhawk autopilot module.

The platform — equipped with onboard cameras, a LIDAR, a sonar and inertial measurement units —  flew at an airspeed of 20 meters per second during a flight test held at the Otis Air National Guard Base in Massachusetts.

It also recognized and maneuvered around obstacles autonomously at a slow speed, DARPA noted.

DARPA chose a Draper-Massachusetts Institute of Technology alliance, the University of Pennsylvania and a Scientific SystemsAeroVironment partnership to help build FLA algorithms.

“The challenge for the teams now is to advance the algorithms and onboard computational efficiency to extend the UAVs’ perception range and compensate for the vehicles’ mass to make extremely tight turns and abrupt maneuvers at high speeds,” said Mark Micire, a DARPA program manager.

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