(19)
(11)EP 3 328 731 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
06.05.2020 Bulletin 2020/19

(21)Application number: 16829957.6

(22)Date of filing:  25.07.2016
(51)Int. Cl.: 
B64C 39/02  (2006.01)
B64C 27/00  (2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/IL2016/050814
(87)International publication number:
WO 2017/017675 (02.02.2017 Gazette  2017/05)

(54)

MULTI-ROTOR UAV FLIGHT CONTROL METHOD

FLUGSTEUERUNGSVERFAHREN FÜR EIN UNBEMANNTES LUFTFAHRZEUG (UAV) MIT MEHREREN ROTOREN

PROCÉDÉ DE COMMANDE DE VOL D'UN UAV À PLUSIEURS ROTORS


(84)Designated Contracting States:
AL AT BE BG CH CY CZ DE DK EE ES FI FR GB GR HR HU IE IS IT LI LT LU LV MC MK MT NL NO PL PT RO RS SE SI SK SM TR

(30)Priority: 28.07.2015 US 201562197569 P

(43)Date of publication of application:
06.06.2018 Bulletin 2018/23

(73)Proprietors:
  • Margolin, Joshua
    4644606 Herzlia (IL)
  • Ben-Ant, Roy
    4643318 Herzlia (IL)

(72)Inventors:
  • Margolin, Joshua
    4644606 Herzlia (IL)
  • Ben-Ant, Roy
    4643318 Herzlia (IL)

(74)Representative: Serjeants LLP 
Dock 75 Exploration Drive
Leicester, LE4 5NU
Leicester, LE4 5NU (GB)


(56)References cited: : 
WO-A2-2014/062275
US-A1- 2003 212 478
US-A1- 2011 301 784
US-A1- 2013 222 590
US-A1- 2014 037 278
US-A- 5 581 250
US-A1- 2004 174 453
US-A1- 2012 229 596
US-A1- 2014 008 496
US-B2- 8 521 339
  
  • OLE JAKOBSEN ET AL: "Control Architecture for a UAV-Mounted Pan/Tilt/Roll Camera Gimbal", INFOTECH@AEROSPACE, 26 September 2005 (2005-09-26), XP055475362, Reston, Virigina DOI: 10.2514/6.2005-7145 ISBN: 978-1-62410-069-7
  
Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


Description

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION



[0001] This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application 6,219,569 filed on 28 July 2015.

TECHNICAL FIELD



[0002] The present invention generally relates to the field of remotely controlling Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV), and more particularly, controlling remotely the flight of multi-rotor UAV or ducted-fan UAV.

BACKGROUND ART



[0003] Multi-rotor UAV (and multirotor copters in general) configurations have become popular in UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) as payload carrying platforms. They are known for their simplicity and for their high maneuverability. They are used for military as well as for civilian purposes. Such multi-rotor UAVs are sometimes also referred to as tri-copter, quadcopter, hexa-copter and octocopter, quads and drones. From now on we refer to these UAV's as Rotary Wing Drones.

[0004] The most difficult part of flying rotary wing drones is controlling them remotely. This difficulty arises from decrease of the situational awareness of the operator, which in turn, significantly decreases working efficiency and at the same time increases risks. Low working efficiency results in high operating costs, and risks present even higher costs associated with collision inflicted hardware damages and human injuries.

[0005] The situational awareness of the operator is dependent on two main factors: the quality of input from his senses and his attention/concentration levels. Decreasing any of the two, dramatically reduces the situational awareness of the operator and hence his ability to control the rotary wing drone and to accomplish the mission's purpose.

[0006] Remote controlled rotary wing drones are mainly used to photograph and document various subjects in civilian and in military applications, such as reconnaissance missions, social events, sport events, scenery, movie scenes, maintenance of buildings, bridges, and pipelines, and also accidents, fires and home security scenes. These missions are performed by an operator/pilot which has to fly and control the rotary wing drone remotely by looking up to the sky to watch it and at the same time keep the documenting camera pointed and focused on the documented subject by watching its output on a small screen to which the film is transmitted. Attempting to simultaneously perform those two distinct operations, which are taking place in different reference systems with different rate of change, severely harm the operator's attention/concentration levels.

[0007] Moreover, remotely flying a rotary wing drone, where the operator is not onboard, intrinsically deprives the operator of sensations of speed, acceleration, noise, distance, three-dimensional image of space, directions (right/left), direction of propagation (forward/backward, to/from) and inclination (pitch/roll). Additionally, the distance between the operator and the rotary wing drone, optically converge all objects in the distance such that the operator can't distinguish the rotary wing drone from objects surrounding it. All these dramatically degrade the situational awareness of the operator and thus his ability to perform the mission efficiently and safely.

[0008] US2012/229596 A1 discloses a method for piloting a rotary wing drone by streaming first-person video from a plurality of fixed video cameras that provide 360 degree video coverage around the drone's yaw axis to the drone's ground operator wherein the centre of field of view is pointing in the direction of the drone's flight regardless of the drone's yaw. This is achieved using sensors that configured to sense the orientation and motion of the drone.

[0009] Ole Jakobsen et al "Control Architecture for a UAV-Mounted Pan/Tilt/Roll Camera Gimbal"; Infotech@Aerospace, 26 September 2005 (2005-09-26) discloses a method for piloting a rotary wing drone by streaming first-person video from a camera capable of rotating around the drone's yaw axis to the drone's ground operator wherein the centre of field of view is pointing in the direction of the drone's flight regardless of the drone's yaw. This is achieved using that sensors that configured to estimate the drone's velocity.

[0010] In fixed wing UAVs there is an intrinsic continuous flight path due to the aeronautical characteristics of the fixed wing UAV. This helps the operator create and maintain a better idea of the direction of movement of the UAV based on this path that is registered in his mind and thus allows him to predict the location and direction of movement to come. In contrary, because rotary wing drone can change the direction of its flight and its speed abruptly, the ability to predict the location and direction of propagation of the rotary wing drone is severely tampered, and hence also the operator's situational awareness.

[0011] Hence a solution to the problem of the degradation of situational awareness of operators of rotary wing drones is needed.

SUMMARY OF INVENTION


Technical Problem



[0012] Rotary wing drones are frequently used for documenting objects. Usually, the documenting camera is attached to the rotary wing drone pointing in the direction the its front (its roll axis). The camera is usually gimballed on the pitch and roll, and sometimes it can be rotated by the operator in the yaw axis. The main task of the ground operator is to pilot the vehicle to obtain the required documentation information. Often, the operator needs to fly the rotating wing drone in a direction which is not aligned with its roll axis. As an example, the operator is asked to film a line of olive trees in an orchard in order to evaluate the amount of fruit. In order to achieve it the operator needs to fly the rotary wing drone along the lines of the trees, where its front with the documenting camera points to the trees while it flies to its side. Thus, simultaneously the operator has to look up to the sky to watch the rotary wing drone and to keep the documenting camera pointed and focused on the documented subject by watching its output on a small screen to which the film is transmitted. Thus the situational awareness of the operator is dramatically decreased, which leads to increased risk, and performance degradation.

Solution To Problem



[0013] The solution to the problem is a method for piloting remotely a rotary wing drone as defined in claims 1 and 2.

Advantageous Effects of Invention



[0014] The disclosed invention dramatically improves the efficiency and safety of flying rotary wing drones. It does so by returning a high level of situational awareness to the operator. As a result it increases flight safety and reduces the operational costs.

[0015] The objective of the disclosed invention is to add the ability to fly rotary wing drone from a First Person View (FPV) perspective (flying from the cockpit) regardless of the direction of the vehicle's body.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS



[0016] 

FIG 1 shows a top view of a typical rotary wing drone.

FIG 2 shows a top view of rotary wing drone with the added flight camera.

FIG 3 shows a block diagram of one embodiment of the flight camera.

FIG 4 shows a block diagram of one embodiment of the flight camera alignment.

FIG 5 presents another implementation of the disclosed invention.


DETAILED DESCRIPTION



[0017] The invention will be described more fully hereinafter, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which certain possible embodiments of the invention are shown. The invention may, however, be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as limited to the embodiments set forth herein; rather these embodiments are provided so that the disclosure will be thorough and complete, and will fully convey the scope of the invention to those skilled in the art.

[0018] The description that follows refers to a multi-rotor UAV as an example, albeit, the same solution is applicable to multirotor UAVs, unmanned helicopters and to ducted-fan air vehicles. All these UAV types are referred to as Rotary Wing Drone.

[0019] Throughout the rest of the specifications and the claims we shall use the following terms as they are defined hereunder.

[0020] Natural plane is a plane that passes through the drone's center of gravity and is perpendicular to the yaw axis of the rotary wing drone.

[0021] Local coordinates are Cartesian coordinates fixed relative to the structure of the rotary wing drone. Usually they are aligned with direction of the inertial measurement unit's sensors.

[0022] The direction of the drone's flight is the direction of its propagation.

[0023] Geographic coordinates are the coordinate system in which the GPS provides information on the flight direction of the rotating wing drone.

[0024] We further define first-person-view, also known as remote-person-view, or simply video piloting, as the method used to control a remote controlled vehicle from the driver's or pilot's view point as if they were sitting on board the vehicle.

[0025] FIG 1 presents a top schematic view of a typical rotary wing drone 100 having four rotors. It is comprised of a body 102, to which four motor arms 104a, 104b 104c and 104d are symmetrically attached. At the end of each motor arm 104a, 104b, 104c, 104d, a propeller 106a, 106b, 106c, 106d is mounted. The rotors are driven by respective motors 108a, 108b, 108c and 108d. The propeller can be either with fixed pitch or variable pitch. The propellers of each diagonal rotate in the same direction i.e. rotors 106a and 106c rotate in one direction and rotors 106b and 106d rotate in opposite direction. The motion of the rotary wing drone is controlled by adjusting the spin speeds and optionally the pitch of its propellers. All the required electronic units are attached to the body of the rotary wing drone 102. As a minimum it contains a power unit, a motor control and drive unit and ground communication unit.

[0026] A top view of a rotary wing drone with the added flight camera unit, according to the invention is shown in FIG 2. A video camera unit 210 is mounted on the body is comprised of a video camera 220 attached to a gimbal that is free to rotate around the yaw axis of the rotary wing drone. The yaw axis in the figure is perpendicular to the plane of the paper. The plane of the paper also represents the natural plane. The camera is controlled to look in the direction of the projection of the flight direction on the natural plane V - 230. The camera unit contains the required electronics that supports its operation. Note, that during calibration, the representation of the yaw axis in the local coordinate system has to be determined, as well as the zero reference direction of the video camera.

[0027] A detailed block diagram of the flight camera unit 350 is presented in FIG 3. The flight-camera-unit 350 is comprised of a flight camera 320 firmly attached to 360° CW/CCW rotating camera pedestal 310. The camera pedestal is driven by a pedestal motor 354 which is controlled by pedestal servo controller 352. The pedestal servo controller accepts as a command the angle Ψ of the required center of the field of view of the camera. The flight camera unit includes a video transmitter 360, that transmits the video to a ground receiver and monitor 390. The signals to and from the camera are channeled via slip rings 356 and 358, one for the video signal and one for the power. All components get the energy from a power unit 362.

[0028] Block diagram of one embodiment of the invention is presented in FIG 4. The flight-camera-system is comprised of a sensors unit 410, processing unit 420 and the flight camera unit 350. The sensors unit provides its data to a processing unit 420. The processor unit 420 computes the angle Ψ to which the flight camera has to be rotated in order to point in the direction of vehicle's direction of flight in the natural plane, and it provides driving signals to the flight camera unit 350 which rotates the camera to the desired direction. All components get their power from a power unit 450. The power unit can be independent or it can get its energy from the power source of the vehicle. Note that the sensors used by the system can be either add on sensors, or the rotary wing drone built in sensors.

[0029] The sensors unit 410 is comprised, as a minimum, of a GPS and magnetometers, and can include additional sensors such as accelerometers and gyros. The sensors provide the data required for the computation of the direction of the flight in local coordinates. The use of the additional sensors, results in improved accuracy in the positioning of the flight camera. It is important to note that the field of view of the flight camera is much wider than the magnetic deviation, so the error induced by the use of magnetometers and not the geographical north is meaningless. If accurate INS system is used, there is no need for the magnetometers.

[0030] FIG 4 presents the disclosed invention. This invention can be used as a backup mode when GPS signals are blocked, such as in a building, or when the drone's flight is not affected by winds. In the invention the direction of flight of the rotary wing drone is computed by the processor from the commands 522 sent to the propellers 510 by the flight controller 520.

[0031] In a similar way, the flight direction of the rotary wing drone, can be evaluated by tilt sensors attached to it. This method may be also used as backup mode or when GPS signal is unavailable.

[0032] What has been described above are just a few possible embodiments of the disclosed invention. It is of course, not possible to describe every conceivable combination of components and/or methodologies, but one of ordinary skill in the art may recognize that many further combinations and permutations are possible and which all fall within the scope of protection defined by the claims.


Claims

1. A method for remotely piloting a rotary wing drone (100) flying in any direction, by streaming to the drone's operator a first-person-view video in the direction of the drone's flight, regardless of the drone's yaw, the method comprising:

a. fitting the drone (100) with a video camera (220) capable of rotating around the drone's yaw axis;

b. acquiring the projection of the drone's flight direction on the natural plane, which is defined by a plane that passes through the drone's center of gravity and is perpendicular to its yaw axis, in local coordinates;

c. automatically turning said video camera (220) so that the center of its field of view is aligned with the said projection of the drone's flight direction on the natural plane; and

d. continuously streaming the video from said video camera (220) to operator's client;

characterized in that:
the projection of the drone's flight direction on the natural plane is computed from the commands applied to the drone's rotors (106a, 106b, 106c, 106d).
 
2. A method for piloting remotely a rotary wing drone (100) in any direction relative to its local coordinates, by streaming a first-person-view video to the drone's ground operator, where the center of field of view is pointing in the direction of the drone's flight, regardless of the drone's yaw, the method comprising:

a. fitting the drone (100) with plurality of fixed video cameras that provide 360 degree video coverage around the drone's yaw axis;

b. acquiring the projection of the drone's flight direction on the natural plane, which is defined by a plane that passes through the drone's center of gravity and is perpendicular to its yaw axis;

c. using the said fixed camera's 360 degrees video, encode a limited field-of-view video, with the center of its field of view is aligned with the said projection of the drone's flight direction on the natural plane; and

d. continuously streaming the video from said encoded limited field-of-view video camera to operator's client;

characterized in that:
the projection of the drone's flight direction on the natural plane is computed from the commands applied to the drone's rotors (106a, 106b, 106c, 106d).
 


Ansprüche

1. Verfahren zum Fernsteuern einer Drehflügeldrohne (100), die in eine beliebige Richtung fliegt, indem dem Bediener der Drohne unabhängig vom Gieren der Drohne ein Video aus der Egoperspektive in Richtung des Fluges der Drohne gestreamt wird, wobei das Verfahren umfasst:

a. Ausstatten der Drohne (100) mit einer Videokamera (220), die sich um die Gierachse der Drohne drehen kann;

b. Erfassen der Projektion der Flugrichtung der Drohne auf die natürliche Ebene, die durch eine Ebene definiert ist, die durch den Schwerpunkt der Drohne verläuft und senkrecht zu ihrer Gierachse ist, in lokalen Koordinaten;

c. automatisches Drehen der Videokamera (220), so dass der Mittelpunkt ihres Sichtfeldes mit der Projektion der Flugrichtung der Drohne auf die natürliche Ebene ausgerichtet ist; und

d. kontinuierliches Streaming des Videos von der Videokamera (220) zum Kunden des Bedieners;

dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass:
die Projektion der Flugrichtung der Drohne auf die natürliche Ebene aus den Befehlen berechnet wird, die auf die Rotoren (106a, 106b, 106c, 106d) der Drohne angewendet werden.
 
2. Verfahren zum Fernsteuern einer Drehflügeldrohne (100) in jeder Richtung relativ zu ihren lokalen Koordinaten, indem ein Video aus der Egoperspektive an den Bodenbediener der Drohne gestreamt wird, wobei das Zentrum des Sichtfeldes unabhängig vom Gieren der Drohne in die Flugrichtung der Drohne zeigt,
wobei das Verfahren umfasst:

a. Ausstatten der Drohne (100) mit einer Vielzahl von festen Videokameras, die eine 360-Grad-Videoabdeckung um die Gierachse der Drohne bieten;

b. Erfassen der Projektion der Flugrichtung der Drohne auf die natürliche Ebene, die durch eine Ebene definiert ist, die durch den Schwerpunkt der Drohne verläuft und senkrecht zu ihrer Gierachse steht;

c. unter Verwendung des 360-Grad-Videos der festen Kamera Kodieren eines Videos mit begrenztem Sichtfeld, wobei der Mittelpunkt des Sichtfeldes mit der Projektion der Flugrichtung der Drohne auf die natürliche Ebene ausgerichtet ist; und

d. Kontinuierliches Streaming des Videos von der kodierten Videokamera mit begrenztem Sichtfeld zum Kunden des Bedieners;

dadurch gekennzeichnet, dass:
die Projektion der Flugrichtung der Drohne auf die natürliche Ebene aus den Befehlen berechnet wird, die auf die Rotoren (106a, 106b, 106c, 106d) der Drohne angewendet werden.
 


Revendications

1. Procédé pour piloter à distance un drone à voilure tournante (100) volant dans n'importe quelle direction, en diffusant en continu, à l'opérateur du drone, une vidéo de vue d'une première personne dans la direction de vol du drone, sans se soucier du lacet du drone, le procédé consistant :

a. à équiper le drone (100) d'une caméra vidéo (220) qui peut tourner autour de l'axe de lacet du drone ;

b. à acquérir la projection de la direction de vol du drone sur le plan naturel, qui est défini par un plan qui passe à travers le centre de gravité du drone et est perpendiculaire à son axe de lacet, dans des coordonnées locales ;

c. à tourner automatiquement ladite caméra vidéo (220) de telle sorte que le centre de son champ de vision soit aligné sur ladite projection de la direction de vol du drone sur le plan naturel ; et

d. à diffuser de manière continue la vidéo depuis ladite caméra vidéo (220) à un client de l'opérateur ;

caractérisé en ce que :
la projection de la direction de vol du drone sur le plan naturel est calculée à partir des commandes appliquées aux rotors (106a, 106b, 106c, 106d) du drone.
 
2. Procédé pour piloter à distance un drone à voilure tournante (100) dans n'importe quelle direction par rapport à ses coordonnées locales, en diffusant en continu une vidéo de vue d'une première personne à l'opérateur du drone, où le centre du champ de vision pointe dans la direction de vol du drone, sans se soucier du lacet du drone, le procédé consistant :

a. à équiper le drone (100) d'une pluralité de caméras vidéo fixes qui fournissent une couverture vidéo de 360 degrés autour de l'axe de lacet du drone ;

b. à acquérir la projection de la direction de vol du drone sur le plan naturel, qui est défini par un plan qui passe à travers le centre de gravité du drone et est perpendiculaire à son axe de lacet ;

c. à l'aide de ladite vidéo de 360 degrés de la caméra fixe, à coder une vidéo de champ de vision limité, le centre de son champ de vision étant aligné sur ladite projection de la direction de vol du drone sur le plan naturel ; et

d. à diffuser de manière continue la vidéo depuis ladite caméra vidéo codée à champ de vision limité à un client de l'opérateur ;

caractérisé en ce que :
la projection de la direction de vol du drone sur le plan naturel est calculée à partir des commandes appliquées aux rotors (106a, 106b, 106c, 106d) du drone.
 




Drawing












REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

Patent documents cited in the description




Non-patent literature cited in the description