Drones can land themselves

The buzzword in drone research is autonomous — having the unmanned aerial vehicle do most or all of its own flying. It’s the only realistic way that drones will have commercially viable uses such as delivering that roll of toilet paper to customers, said Manish Kumar, associate professor of mechanical engineering at the University of Cincinnati’s College of Engineering and Applied Science.

Kumar and his co-authors, Nicklas Stockton, a UC researcher, and Kelly Cohen, aerospace engineering professor, considered the difficulty drones have in navigating their ever-changing airspace in a study presented at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics SciTech 2017 Conference in January. “It has to land within a designated area with a small margin of error,” Kumar said. “Landing a drone on a moving platform is a very difficult problem scientifically and from an engineering perspective.”

While scientists are concerned with precision and accuracy in all they do, most people get through their day by making inferences and generalities, or by using fuzzy logic. Instead of seeing the world in black and white, fuzzy logic allows for nuance or degrees of truth. “In linguistic terms, we say large, medium and small rather than defining exact sets,” he said. “We want to translate this kind of fuzzy reasoning used in humans to control systems.”

UC doctoral graduate Nick Ernest, another student of Cohen’s, started an artificial intelligence company called Psibernetix, Inc., that demonstrated the power of fuzzy logic last year when a fuzzy-logic-based artificial intelligence, dubbed ALPHA, bested a human fighter pilot in simulated dogfights. “Compared to other state-of-the-art techniques of adaptive thinking and deep learning, our approach appears to possess several advantages. Genetic fuzzy is scalable, adaptable and very robust,” Cohen said.