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Autonomous recharging and docking for multirotors

A system that enables multirotors to dock and self recharge which allows them to perform longer autonomous missions

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This project was created on 08/21/2014 and last updated a month ago.

Multicopters are good because they are cheap, simple and if equipped capable of doing remote sensing

My system attaches to the bottom of current apm systems and allows them to land on a user defined target (example targets provided) and when equipped with the supplementary electronics allows for recharging

This means that the copter is now capable of performing multiple missions and if combined with a ground vehicle it can be used as an extension of the ground robots capabilities thus creating a multi robot system

Example applications are
multiple copters watching an area
-environmental surveying
Can do mapping or remote sensing over a longer period due to recharge
if with agv it can move around the environment and perform a multitude of missions
-extending current agv operations
Aerial mapping / complimentary sensors
-improved aerial photography
capable of tracking a target

The cheap small GPS used on hobby UAVS are only accurate to +-5m and traditional landing systems simply move the copter to a predefined GPS location and slowly lower the craft hoping that there is nothing in the way and that the position is where you started. This is nowhere near accurate enough to allow the copters to dock and thus recharge themselves. Normally a human operator is required to move the copter from the landing site to a place where it can be recharged. This limits mission operation and requires a human operator to be physically present.

Utilizing recent advances in low power high performance computing and computer vision techniques my system will allow the copter to dock, recharge itself and when finished fly off again and continue its mission thus partially compensating for the poor endurance of multirotors.


- Design testing platform [DONE]

- Build testing platform [DONE]

- Test flightworthyness of platform [DONE]

- Design recharging electronics

- Design vision software for landing [DONE]

- Test integration of vision system with paltform

  • 1 × Hexacopter
  • 1 × Odroid u3 computer
  • 1 × Pixhawk autopilot
  • 1 × Usb webcam

Project logs
  • System description youtube video

    a month ago • 0 comments

    Here's my Introductory Youtube video for the Hackaday Contest as per the rules. 

  • Simulation of autonomous landing

    a month ago • 0 comments

    Using the free vrep simulation environment and my access to matlab and simulink via the university the simulation model of the copter has been developed and I can work on designing vision based control algorithms without the risk of crashing copters.

  • Flight tests of autonomous platform

    a month ago • 0 comments

    The autonomous platform was assembled based on the design documents and all the electronics were validated in the lab. Once the system was confirmed to be working the platform was taken out to the ACFR test area on the Marulan farm.

    A number of tests were performed and the pixhawk running the arducopter firmware performed as expected.

    Preliminary testing of the visual system was started ,but the software integration requires more work and the addition of more failsafes to deal with fail cases

View all 5 project logs


Peter Gerten wrote 7 days ago null point

looks awesome. Do you have the code somewhere on github? Would love to give it a try in my project.

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Francesca wrote 17 days ago null point

Hi Giovanni.
I'm highly interested in this project for my Start-up (we provide automated operations with UAVs) and I would like to ask you more information.
Please contact me at so we can speak about it.

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Harrison Jones wrote 19 days ago null point

Hey, what a cool project! I'm interested in doing something similar. My main problems I've been trying to tackle in my head is:
A, Percise and accurate landing is hard. How could we solve this?
B, Once we are landed how do we connect the 'copter to the station?
C, Once connected how do we charge the copter in a way that is responsive (the copter needs to know the state of charging)?

Have you tackled any of the above? I'd like to share information.

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Giovanni Durso wrote 19 days ago 1 point

Hi Harrison, thank you for the support.

A - This is a fairly complex problem and there are a wide variety of approaches you can use which depend on the exact system you are using. A number of considerations such as what sensors you are using, the amount of processing power you have available(onboard or offboard), your operation environment, the requirements of your landing (accuracy, orientation, is it moving etc) and a number more.
For my system above I am using an approach called vision based closed loop control or visual servoing. I detect the target using some computer vision algorithms and then feed the detected marker into a controller which tells the copter how to move to center itself over the target. I am going to be putting up some project logs and documentation soon explaining my approach in more detail so i'll spare you an even larger post here.

B- I havn't solved this problem quite yet, but I have been looking at some designs and drafting things.
There seems to be three main approaches for this:
1. You have a conductive material on the legs and the target and when you detect a connection you start charging

2. You do a battery swap. Your UAV lands on the target and a mechanism engages which drops the batteries out of the UAV and another one swaps in freshly charged ones then off it flies. The landing pad takes the drained batteries and loads them into a carousel and charges them while waiting for another craft to land.

3. Use wireless or inductive charging and have the coil lower from the craft to touch or put coils on the landing legs (it depends on your design)

C- Similar to B I have looked at it ,but not yet fully implemented a solution. From what I can see there are two approaches here either when the copter detects a charge it shuts itself down and charges and once the charge is complete turn the copter back on either by coupling the power lines to the computers to a relay which gets switched during charging or putting them into sleep mode and using something like Wake Over Lan to wake them back up.
Alternatively the electronics can be kept running and your charging circuitry needs to be capable of detecting the load caused by the computers during the charge operation and compensate for it.

Hopefully this starts to answer your questions and if you have any more feel free to ask :)

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seesemichaelj wrote a month ago null point

Man, I already have a semi-working system that does this! I did this for my undergrad senior design project along with 11 other engineers. We did the high-fidelity landing (controls needs working) and recharging system. Unfortunately, it's proprietary information and a group project and could not have submitted for HAD. This is cool; please contact me at I would like to ask you a couple of questions.

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