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Drone special Robotics symposium 3 February 2021

With over 110 participants from about 20 different research groups and many MSc students, an inspiring keynote lecture, 5 short presentations from 5 different drone perspectives, and an interesting discussion at the end, the internal Robotics symposium of February 3rd has been very successful. 

Dario Floreano – EPFL 

In an inspiring talk Dario Floreano told us about a number of projects they are working on that all take their inspiration from nature: from the unfolding wings of a beetle to the wings of a bat that are also used for locomotion. More details can be found in the paper “Adaptive morphology: a design for multimodal and multifunctional robots

Francesco Nex – ITC 

Interesting presentation about the UAV research from ITC. Within several other things, he presented some results from the Panoptis project. He also mentioned DeltaQuad, a company in the Netherlands producing fixed-wing UAVs.

Peter de Vries – BMS 

Insightful presentation about the acceptance of drones by society. A key element here seems to be the information provision to the citizens. Furthermore, expressing regrets can also have a positive effect on the acceptance and trust. 

Abeje Mersha – Saxion 

Drones are especially useful in areas that are hard to reach by humans. The BEAST project focuses on one of the most extreme, emergency cases where every second counts (information on the problem to be solved has to be gathered as soon as possible). In this project, the study is focused on the design of an autonomous security drone for emergency situations. 

Federico Califano – EEMCS 

The flapping wing robot already flies, but it is not completely understood how – there is a complex bilateral interaction of two systems: the flying bird with its rigid and flexible parts and the surrounding air. Through modelling of these interactions, the goal of the Portwings project is to get a better understanding of flapping flight, exploiting the Port-Hamiltonian based formalism and way of thinking.  

Drone Team Twente 

The Drone Team Twente was given the floor to present themselves. Currently they are working on their first prototypes, which parts were coming out of the 3D printer at the time of the presentation. So, to be continued… 

Panel discussion 

The panel discussion started with a short presentation about the Aerial-core project, showing the state-of-the-art in co-working aerial robots. Starting point for the discussion was the following: why are aerial robots not been applied (in industry) on a large scale yet?

Participants in the discussion still see some challenges for research for example on autonomy, collaboration between aerial robots, and inspiration from nature.

Furthermore, societal acceptance is also a key aspect that prevents the widespread use of drones. Privacy issues (collecting images) are one of the main issues, which can be tackled largely by telling the public that there is no camera on board. Furthermore, the shape of the drones is another aspect; it seems that an airplane shape results in better acceptance.

The noise of the drone is another aspect that limits the acceptance. The UT, Saxion and Space53 are working together on the development of silent drones to tackle this problem.

The perceived safety is related to the application area, but still the influence of the media is large, because they usually only report if something goes wrong.

Although there are already a large number of drone flights in the Netherlands, the widespread application of drones is also limited by their busines case; for one flight minimally three people are needed. Autonomous drones seem to be good solution, but trust and safety are the most important aspects to work on to get this from the ground.