Many of the applications that have been proposed for future small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are at low altitude in areas with many obstacles. A vital component for successful navigation in such environments is a path planner that can find collision free paths for the UAV.
Two popular path planning algorithms are the probabilistic roadmap algorithm (PRM) and the rapidly-exploring random tree algorithm (RRT).
Adaptations of these algorithms to an unmanned autonomous helicopter are presented in this thesis, together with a number of extensions for handling constraints at different stages of the planning process.
The result of this work is twofold:
First, the described planners and extensions have been implemented and integrated into the software architecture of a UAV. A number of flight tests with these algorithms have been performed on a physical helicopter and the results from some of them are presented in this thesis.
Second, an empirical study has been conducted, comparing the performance of the different algorithms and extensions in this planning domain. It is shown that with the environment known in advance, the PRM algorithm generally performs better than the RRT algorithm due to its precompiled roadmaps, but that the latter is also usable as long as the environment is not too complex. The study also shows that simple geometric constraints can be added in the runtime phase of the PRM algorithm, without a big impact on performance. It is also shown that postponing the motion constraints to the runtime phase can improve the performance of the planner in some cases.