The Role of Compute in Autonomous Aerial Vehicles

by   Behzad Boroujerdian, et al.

Autonomous-mobile cyber-physical machines are part of our future. Specifically, unmanned-aerial-vehicles have seen a resurgence in activity with use-cases such as package delivery. These systems face many challenges such as their low-endurance caused by limited onboard-energy, hence, improving the mission-time and energy are of importance. Such improvements traditionally are delivered through better algorithms. But our premise is that more powerful and efficient onboard-compute should also address the problem. This paper investigates how the compute subsystem, in a cyber-physical mobile machine, such as a Micro Aerial Vehicle, impacts mission-time and energy. Specifically, we pose the question as what is the role of computing for cyber-physical mobile robots? We show that compute and motion are tightly intertwined, hence a close examination of cyber and physical processes and their impact on one another is necessary. We show different impact paths through which compute impacts mission-metrics and examine them using analytical models, simulation, and end-to-end benchmarking. To enable similar studies, we open sourced MAVBench, our tool-set consisting of a closed-loop simulator and a benchmark suite. Our investigations show cyber-physical co-design, a methodology where robot's cyber and physical processes/quantities are developed with one another consideration, similar to hardware-software co-design, is necessary for optimal robot design.


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