On realistic target coverage by autonomous drones
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Low-cost mini-drones with advanced sensing and maneuverability enable a new class of intelligent sensing systems. To achieve the full potential of such drones, it is necessary to develop new enhanced formulations of both common and emerging sensing scenarios. Namely, several fundamental challenges in visual sensing are yet to be solved including (1) fitting sizable targets in camera frames; (2) positioning cameras at effective viewpoints matching target poses; and (3) accounting for occlusion by elements in the environment, including other targets. In this article, we introduce Argus, an autonomous system that utilizes drones to collect target information incrementally through a two-tier architecture. To tackle the stated challenges, Argus employs a novel geometric model that captures both target shapes and coverage constraints. Recognizing drones as the scarcest resource, Argus aims to minimize the number of drones required to cover a set of targets. We prove this problem is NP-hard, and even hard to approximate, before deriving a best-possible approximation algorithm along with a competitive sampling heuristic which runs up to 100× faster according to large-scale simulations. To test Argus in action, we demonstrate and analyze its performance on a prototype implementation. Finally, we present a number of extensions to accommodate more application requirements and highlight some open problems.
- Computer Science & Engineering [582 items ]