VICON Motion Capture System Enables PSI to Study Insect Collisions.

Physical Sciences Inc. (PSI) announces the commissioning of a VICON Motion Capture System

(MCS) in its Micro Air Vehicle (MAV) Development Laboratory. PSI will use the system to study insect flight dynamics and to improve autonomous control of MAVs. The VICON MCS will allow PSI engineers and scientists to apply knowledge gained through insect observation to rapidly develop bio-inspired components and systems that will allow MAVs to operate in complex, real-world environments.

The VICON MCS uses eight high-speed, infrared cameras to track moving objects within a flight arena. Software developed at PSI allows operators to monitor insect flight or control an MAV in real-time. Current programs that are benefiting from the VICON MCS include the development of a collision robust MAV, a reflexive autopilot for a highly agile MAV and a novel boundary layer control technique for low Reynolds number flight.

“The VICON System is a fantastic tool for developing insect-sized MAVs,” says Thomas Vaneck, Vice President. “Since much of our work looks to nature for inspiration, the VICON is critical because it allows us to observe insects and then immediately fly our MAVs in the same observational arena.”
The VICON offers a low-risk environment for PSI engineers to push the envelope of advanced MAV control strategies. Vaneck said,

“Since the control algorithms can be located off board the vehicle, our engineers can test an algorithm and refine it in minutes–with little danger of damage to the vehicle.”
Once the autopilot algorithms are finalized, they can be moved onboard the MAV and the vehicle perform autonomous flight in the

VICON MCS–or outside. The system offers engineers quantitative measures of system performance by providing full state information: position, orientation, velocity and acceleration. However, Vaneck says, “One of the real value of the system is that we learn what components are critical for robust flight; allowing us to focus our miniaturize efforts on those systems and dramatically reduce volume, mass and power.”

About Physical Sciences Inc.
For over 35 years PSI has provided research and development services to both government and commercial customers. PSI develops advanced, cutting-edge technologies for aerospace, energy, environmental, manufacturing and medical applications, and has acquired an international reputation for technical excellence and innovation. PSI’s Disruptive Technologies Group was formed to seek and exploit “game changing” breakthroughs that can provide revolutionary improvements in performance and capabilities of unmanned systems. To learn more about PSI’s capabilities please visit:

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