An Integrated Framework for Autonomous Sensor Placement with Aerial Robots

Brett Stephens*, Hai-Nguyen Nguyen, S. Hamaza, Mirko Kovac

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Aerial manipulators have the unique ability to cover wide-spread areas within a single mission, making them ideal for the transport and placement of sensors required to build an instrumented environment. Recent work in the field has focused on controllers for aerial interaction that account for compliance during contact-based tasks, omitting integration concerns that are critical to an automated solution. Furthermore, state-of-the-art flying base manipulators are often mechanically and computationally complex, reducing their endurance. Within this work, we present an interactive framework for autonomous sensor placement that incorporates both mechanical and software based compliance, optimised for use on a simple coplanar quadrotor. Under appropriate actuation and perception constraints, we detail the development of a control, perception, and motion planning strategy to enable sensor placement that relies solely on onboard computation and sensing, thus presenting a fully contained and accessible sensor placement approach capable of robust interaction with the environment. An extended finite-state machine is developed to facilitate automated mission planning. Extensive flight experiments are performed to validate the effectiveness of each sub-system, as well as the integrated solution. Experiments result in trajectory tracking errors under <inline-formula><tex-math notation="LaTeX">$10 \,\mathrm{mm}$</tex-math></inline-formula> as well as onboard mass estimation errors under <inline-formula><tex-math notation="LaTeX">$0.7 $</tex-math></inline-formula>&#x0025; for sensors of various weights. A statistical analysis of 162 flight experiments shows the proposed framework's ability to autonomously place sensors within <inline-formula><tex-math notation="LaTeX">$10 \,\mathrm{cm}$</tex-math></inline-formula> of the target with a success rate of <inline-formula><tex-math notation="LaTeX">$93.8 $</tex-math></inline-formula>&#x0025; and <inline-formula><tex-math notation="LaTeX">$95 $</tex-math></inline-formula>&#x0025; confidence interval of (89&#x0025;, 97&#x0025;), thus confirming the robustness of our approach.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9913068
Pages (from-to)1-12
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE/ASME Transactions on Mechatronics
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2022


  • Aerial Physical Interaction
  • Interaction Control
  • Aerial Robotics
  • Sensor placement


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