Draper Laboratory small autonomous aerial vehicle

Paul A. DeBitetto, Eric Johnson, Michael C. Bosse, Christian A. Trott

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The Charles Stark Draper Laboratory, Inc. and students from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Boston University have cooperated to develop an autonomous aerial vehicle that won the 1996 International Aerial Robotics Competition. This paper describes the approach, system architecture and subsystem designs for the entry. This entry represents a combination of many technology areas: navigation, guidance, control, vision processing, human factors, packaging, power, real-time software, and others. The aerial vehicle, an autonomous helicopter, performs navigation and control functions using multiple sensors: differential GPS, inertial measurement unit, sonar altimeter, and a flux compass. The aerial transmits video imagery to the ground. A ground based vision processor converts the image data into target position and classification estimates. The system was designed, built, and flown in less than one year and has provided many lessons about autonomous vehicle systems, several of which are discussed. In an appendix, our current research in augmenting the navigation system with vision- based estimates is presented.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)110-120
Number of pages11
JournalProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
StatePublished - Dec 1 1997
EventEnhanced and Synthetic Vision 1997 - Orlando, FL, United States
Duration: Apr 21 1997Apr 21 1997

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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