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Student Robotics Team Takes 2nd Place in International Drone Race

By Maryland Today Staff

An interdisciplinary team of undergraduate and graduate students affiliated with the Maryland Robotics Center on Tuesday took second place in the autonomous drone racing event at the 2019 IEEE International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems in Macau.

This year’s challenge focused on flying autonomously at speed, with six competing teams completing as many runs as possible through a set of gates in five minutes. The “TurboTerps” completed 14 runs in 4:42, coming in second behind the University of Tsukuba, Japan, which flew a drone that completed 15 runs in 4:47. The Terps finished one place higher than at their 2018 debut at IROS in Madrid.

The team’s adviser was Assistant Professor Huan “Mumu” Xu of aerospace engineering and the Institute for Systems Research. Student members included Swapneel Naphade, a Master of Science in Systems Engineering student specializing in robotics control; undergraduate Sharon Shallom in aerospace engineering and aerospace engineering graduate student Derek Thompson, a two-year competition veteran. Team member Micah Moten, a mechanical engineering undergraduate student, did not attend.

Competitive autonomous drone racing is an engineering and computer science challenge that requires an understanding of computer vision, the ability to develop algorithms that incorporate the gate detection, and programming logic for the drone to understand when it has completed tasks. Team members do not fly the drones themselves; they must program them to navigate the course on their own.

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