ARA is proud to announce that our team successfully developed an autonomous RPAS (RPAS is synonymous with a drone) with a tactical 3D reconnaissance system capable of operating in GPS-denied environments. The demonstration project was commissioned by Transport Canada. In the near future, Canada plans to use these reconnaissance drones in several key sectors, for example, during emergency response where field responders need to quickly map their environment, or in rescue operations where human access is impeded and endangered. This device can also map indoor environments such as underground mines with a high degree of efficiency and accuracy, which was validated by the ARA team during the course of this project.
The first round of RPAS flight tests were carried out at ARA’s future office. During these tests, the SLAM algorithm (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping) was extensively validated. This algorithm allows the RPAS to determine its exact position by building a map of its surroundings in real-time and positioning itself within this map. The videos below show a scan of the future office of ARA Robotics and a scan of the area surrounding ARA Robotics’ future office captured by the RPAS. It features steel beams, concrete columns, windows and pipes. This scan allowed us to compare building blueprints with real-life dimensions in preparation for the renovation of our facilities. During these indoor flight tests, another critical functionality, namely the Obstacle Detection and Avoidance (ODA) system was validated. The ODA algorithm constantly scans for nearby obstacles and issues commands to the flight controller to avoid these obstacles. Due to the wide field of view of the onboard sensors, the ODA system can detect obstacles in almost all directions.
It was all these functionalities that enabled us to fly ARA’s reconnaissance RPAS for more than 250 m underground, in the drifts of an underground mine. During these underground flight-tests, the RPAS was almost always beyond the pilot’s visual line of sight, but was easily controllable thanks to its numerous autonomous functionalities. Following these tests, ARA Robotique is proud to point out that this was the first time that an ARA drone equipped with SLAM technology flew in an underground mine. The results exceeded all expectations and the RPAS flight tests produced a large quantity of data that led to further post-processing of maps. The type of information collected during these tests can allow future mining crews to plan operations and ensure the safety of working personnel.
This project enabled ARA Robotique to deliver two systems to the government and showcase their numerous capabilities. The company is currently working towards increasing the flight time of the RPAS systems and expanding the type of actions they can carry out. For example, a longer flight time would make it possible to schedule routine inspections in underground mines. The reconnaissance, mapping, data collection and autonomous navigation capabilities of our RPAS will be useful for a wide variety of activities. Keep following our progress as we continue to develop innovative ideas to tackle GPS-denied navigation!