Companies like Amazon have big ideas for drones that can deliver packages right to your door and a new mapping system developed by researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) can help achieve that. The new system, called NanoMap, allows drones to consistently fly 32 km per hour through dense environments like forests, the researchers said. Being able to avoid obstacles while travelling at high speeds is computationally complex, especially for small drones that are limited in how much they can carry on board for real-time processing. The new system considers the drone’s position in the world over time to be uncertain and actually models and accounts for that uncertainty.
“Overly confident maps won’t help you if you want drones that can operate at higher speeds in human environments,” said Pete Florence, lead author on a new related paper. “An approach that is better aware of uncertainty gets us a much higher level of reliability in terms of being able to fly in close quarters and avoid obstacles,” Florence added. Specifically, NanoMap uses a depth-sensing system to stitch together a series of measurements about the drone’s immediate surroundings, according to the study to be presented at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA), scheduled in May in Brisbane.