Authors: Kunyue SU, Tianbo LIU

We present a method allowing a quadrotor equipped with only onboard cameras and an IMU to catch a flying ball. Our system runs without any external infrastructure and with reasonable computational complexity. Central to our approach is an online monocular vision-based ball trajectory estimator that recovers and predicts the 3-D motion of a flying ball using only noisy 2-D observations.Our method eliminates the need for direct range sensing via stereo correspondences, making it robust against noisy or erroneous measurements. Our system is made by a simple 2-D visual ball tracker, a UKF-based state estimator that fuses optical flow and inertial data, and a nonlinear tracking controller. We perform extensive analysis on system performance by studying both the system dynamics and ball trajectory estimation accuracy. Through online experiments, we show the first mid-air interception of a flying ball with an aerial robot using only onboard sensors.

Related publications:
K. Su and S. Shen. Catching a flying ball with a vision-based quadrotor. In Proc. of the International Symposium on Experimental Robotics (ISER), Tokyo, Japan, October 2016. To Appear.