Today, Prof. Dr. Roland Siegwart gave Max Planck Lecture on the theme of “Autonomous Robots that Walk and Fly”. He is a professor for autonomous mobile robots at ETH Zurich, founding co-director of the Wyss Translational Center Zurich and member of the board of directors of multiple high tech companies. I was delighted to meet him and present my research.
Abstract: While robots are already doing a wonderful job as factory workhorses, they are now gradually appearing in our daily environments and offering their services as autonomous cars, delivery drones, helpers in search and rescue and much more. This talk will present some recent highlights in the field of autonomous mobile robotics research and touch on some of the great challenges and opportunities. Legged robots are able to overcome the limitations of wheeled or tracked ground vehicles. ETH’s electrically powered legged quadruped robots are designed for high agility, efficiency, and robustness in rough terrain. This is realized through an optimal exploitation of the natural dynamics and serial elastic actuation. For fast inspection of complex environments, flying robots are probably the most efficient and versatile devices. However, the limited payload and computing power of drones render autonomous navigation quite challenging. Thanks to our custom designed visual-inertial sensor, real-time on-board localization, mapping, and planning has become feasible and enables our multi-copters and solar-powered fixed-wing drones for advanced rescue and inspection tasks or support in precision farming, even in GPS-denied environments.