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This work proposes a hybrid algorithm combining an Artificial Neural Network (ANN) with a conventional local path planner to navigate UAVs efficiently in various unknown urban environments. The proposed method of a Hybrid Artificial Neural Network Avoidance System is called HANNAS. The ANN analyses a video stream and classifies the current environment. This information about the current Environment is used to set several control parameters of a conventional local path planner, the 3DVFH*. The local path planner then plans the path toward a specific goal point based on distance data from a depth camera. We trained and tested a state-of-the-art image segmentation algorithm, PP-LiteSeg. The proposed HANNAS method reaches a failure probability of 17%, which is less than half the failure probability of the baseline and around half the failure probability of an improved, bio-inspired version of the 3DVFH*. The proposed HANNAS method does not show any disadvantages regarding flight time or flight distance.

The eVTOL industry is a rapidly growing mass market expected to start in 2024. eVTOL compete, caused by their predicted missions, with ground-based transportation modes, including mainly passenger cars. Therefore, the automotive and classical aircraft design process is reviewed and compared to highlight advantages for eVTOL development. A special focus is on ergonomic comfort and safety. The need for further investigation of eVTOL’s crashworthiness is outlined by, first, specifying the relevance of passive safety via accident statistics and customer perception analysis; second, comparing the current state of regulation and certification; and third, discussing the advantages of integral safety and applying the automotive safety approach for eVTOL development. Integral safety links active and passive safety, while the automotive safety approach means implementing standardized mandatory full-vehicle crash tests for future eVTOL. Subsequently, possible crash impact conditions are analyzed, and three full-vehicle crash load cases are presented.

Even the shortest flight through unknown, cluttered environments requires reliable local path planning algorithms to avoid unforeseen obstacles. The algorithm must evaluate alternative flight paths and identify the best path if an obstacle blocks its way. Commonly, weighted sums are used here. This work shows that weighted Chebyshev distances and factorial achievement scalarising functions are suitable alternatives to weighted sums if combined with the 3DVFH* local path planning algorithm. Both methods considerably reduce the failure probability of simulated flights in various environments. The standard 3DVFH* uses a weighted sum and has a failure probability of 50% in the test environments. A factorial achievement scalarising function, which minimises the worst combination of two out of four objective functions, reaches a failure probability of 26%; A weighted Chebyshev distance, which optimises the worst objective, has a failure probability of 30%. These results show promise for further enhancements and to support broader applicability.

Obstacle avoidance is critical for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) operating autonomously. Obstacle avoidance algorithms either rely on global environment data or local sensor data. Local path planners react to unforeseen objects and plan purely on local sensor information. Similarly, animals need to find feasible paths based on local information about their surroundings. Therefore, their behavior is a valuable source of inspiration for path planning. Bumblebees tend to fly vertically over far-away obstacles and horizontally around close ones, implying two zones for different flight strategies depending on the distance to obstacles. This work enhances the local path planner 3DVFH* with this bio-inspired strategy. The algorithm alters the goal-driven function of the 3DVFH* to climb-preferring if obstacles are far away. Prior experiments with bumblebees led to two definitions of flight zone limits depending on the distance to obstacles, leading to two algorithm variants. Both variants reduce the probability of not reaching the goal of a 3DVFH* implementation in Matlab/Simulink. The best variant, 3DVFH*b-b, reduces this probability from 70.7 to 18.6% in city-like worlds using a strong vertical evasion strategy. Energy consumption is higher, and flight paths are longer compared to the algorithm version with pronounced horizontal evasion tendency. A parameter study analyzes the effect of different weighting factors in the cost function. The best parameter combination shows a failure probability of 6.9% in city-like worlds and reduces energy consumption by 28%. Our findings demonstrate the potential of bio-inspired approaches for improving the performance of local path planning algorithms for UAV.

Digital Image Correlation (DIC) is a powerful tool used to evaluate displacements and deformations in a non-intrusive manner. By comparing two images, one of the undeformed reference state of a specimen and another of the deformed target state, the relative displacement between those two states is determined. DIC is well known and often used for post-processing analysis of in-plane displacements and deformation of specimen. Increasing the analysis speed to enable real-time DIC analysis will be beneficial and extend the field of use of this technique.
Here we tested several combinations of the most common DIC methods in combination with different parallelization approaches in MATLAB and evaluated their performance to determine whether real-time analysis is possible with these methods. To reflect improvements in computing technology different hardware settings were also analysed. We found that implementation problems can reduce the efficiency of a theoretically superior algorithm such that it becomes practically slower than a suboptimal algorithm. The Newton-Raphson algorithm in combination with a modified Particle Swarm algorithm in parallel image computation was found to be most effective. This is contrary to theory, suggesting that the inverse-compositional Gauss-Newton algorithm is superior. As expected, the Brute Force Search algorithm is the least effective method. We also found that the correct choice of parallelization tasks is crucial to achieve improvements in computing speed. A poorly chosen parallelisation approach with high parallel overhead leads to inferior performance. Finally, irrespective of the computing mode the correct choice of combinations of integerpixel and sub-pixel search algorithms is decisive for an efficient analysis. Using currently available hardware realtime analysis at high framerates remains an aspiration.