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We present the design and implementation of a real-time, vision-based landing algorithm for an autonomous helicopter. The landing algorithm is integrated with algorithms for visual acquisition of the target (a helipad) and navigation to the target, from an arbitrary initial position and orientation. We use vision for precise target detection and recognition, and a combination of vision and Global Positioning System for navigation. The helicopter updates its landing target parameters based on vision and uses an onboard behavior-based controller to follow a path to the landing site. We present significant results from flight trials in the field which demonstrate that our detection, recognition, and control algorithms are accurate, robust, and repeatable.
Date of Publication: June 2003