THE TAU AUTONOMY CENTER CHALLENGE
TAC (2021 - 2022)
The Tau Autonomy Center Challenge (TAC Challenge) is a newly started international robotics competition whose goal is to get students working on the cutting-edge challenges of industrial drone applications. Through the TAC Challenge, students are challenged to tackle complex problems facing industry like autonomous mapping, the creation and usage of digital twins, anomaly detection using AI, as well as robust weatherproof drone designs, and excellent operational procedures. From 2021 to 2022, Ascend has been victorious twice in a row, and we are ready to take on future challenges as the best Norwegian team!
Solan & Ludvig, 2022
Solan & Ludvig is the first UAV duo made for the TAC challenge 2022.
Solan and Ludvig are equipped with different sensors for two scenarios. First, Solan comes with a Zed stereo camera attached to the mainframe; The camera utilizes 3D sensing technology to help Solan inspect anomalies from the top of an industrial site. On the contrary, Ludvig carries a Livox Avia LiDAR scanner to assemble 3D models for terrain mappings.
That said, both Solan & Ludvig share the same configurations and can carry out each other’s mission by replacing the corresponding sensor. Thus, Solan & Ludvig are almost identical; the only difference is the sensor payload. In 2022, the new TAC challenge required the drone to adjust the sensor payload without being overweight. Therefore, vanilla Ludvig is heavier due to the installment of a Lidar compared to a lighter camera on Solan. Still, both drones are within the payload limit. Furthermore, Solan & Ludvig can autonomously resume flight from the last waypoint during a battery swap compared to Marlin.
Marlin is our first outdoor drone designed for remote operations for TAC challenges.
Adapting to TAC mission scenarios, Marlin is our first drone to open up a new software pipeline in autonomous operations: AI decision-making and autopilot. The built-in AI system utilizes a “Superfluid” state machine and MAVROS package to enable extended flight beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS). Marlin employs thermal imagining to detect heat signatures from human-like objects for search and rescue scenarios. Other key characteristics include a powerline avoidance system and a failsafe mechanism.
The main frame is equipped with a custom antenna and various sensors for a gimbal, RGB thermal camera, Real Time Kinematic (RTK), and Pixhawk-based flight controller. The key takeaway from the name Marlin is its survivability under harsh weather conditions. This means that external hardware is made of waterproofing materials. In addition, Marlin is a lightweight A3 drone weighing only 2.4 kg with all essential accessories. Adapting to TAC mission scenarios, the drone can carry out regular flights with an additional 2.2 kg weight.
After winning first prize at the 2021 TAC challenge, Marlin is now retired as an outdoor test drone.