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Biol Cybern. 2011 Jun;104(6):351-67. doi: 10.1007/s00422-011-0440-z. Epub 2011 Jul 5.

Egomotion estimation with optic flow and air velocity sensors.

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Air Force Research Laboratory/RW, Eglin AFB, FL 32542, USA.


We develop a method that allows a flyer to estimate its own motion (egomotion), the wind velocity, ground slope, and flight height using only inputs from onboard optic flow and air velocity sensors. Our artificial algorithm demonstrates how it could be possible for flying insects to determine their absolute egomotion using their available sensors, namely their eyes and wind sensitive hairs and antennae. Although many behaviors can be performed by only knowing the direction of travel, behavioral experiments indicate that odor tracking insects are able to estimate the wind direction and control their absolute egomotion (i.e., groundspeed). The egomotion estimation method that we have developed, which we call the opto-aeronautic algorithm, is tested in a variety of wind and ground slope conditions using a video recorded flight of a moth tracking a pheromone plume. Over all test cases that we examined, the algorithm achieved a mean absolute error in height of 7% or less. Furthermore, our algorithm is suitable for the navigation of aerial vehicles in environments where signals from the Global Positioning System are unavailable.

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