About a year and a half ago I saw Jetpac’s video of their Spotter app and I remember thinking at the time that it would be so cool to get this flying on a drone. I didn’t have the bandwidth to work on it at the time but ended up poking at it with Markus Aschinger at the ASI and with two A level students (Jawad / Isaac) from the Nuffield Foundation. While they did good work and it got me a step closer, it still hadn’t quite come together. Hence I sat down the past week to do a full rewrite, integrate it with a quad I had lying around and do a little demo. The result can be seen in the video below.
There are many applications for GPR but the one I have been focussing on the most has been landmine and UXO detection. GPR is a popular sensor for this but by no means the only one. From big complex neutron sources to small thermal cameras and magnetometers a wide variety of sensors have been developed to detect landmines.
While we were focussing on GPR I wanted to explore what other sensors we could mount or fly alongside the GPR and that could provide a complimentary picture. This then crystallised into a summer project for Skycap intern Alex Davey. After some in-depth research into the spectrum of relevant sensors the decision was made to experiment with an active EMI sensor (i.e., metal detector).
Besides the machine learning angle discussed in the previous post, the UAV based GPR system that I have been working on has involved an interesting foray into robot swarming technology. The reason being that the sensor places a number of restrictions on the operation of the aerial robot. In particular the swath that can be covered in one pass is rather limited. There are different routes to ameliorating that and one of them is the use of multiple drones to increase coverage rates.
One of the projects that has taken up a lot of my time the past few months is that of a UAV (drone) based Ground Penetrating Radar (GPR) system. There are a number of applications for this but the one we have been focussing on initially is landmine and UXO clearance. The elements that make up such a system are quite broad. Ranging from sensor design, UAV integration, positioning, terrain following to data analysis. As with many drone projects most of the attention tends to go to the hardware and the flying. While that is certainly important and I have been working on those elements too, the whole system is only as good as the quality and interpretability of the data you get back. That is key. With this post I’ll aim to give a brief summary of the work I have been leading on this front.