Servers by jDrones

Does ArduPilot have a "Follow Me" autonomous mode?

(Chris Simeone) #1

Hi, I am new here and just learned about ArduPilot last night while researching “Follow Me” multicopters. I am a software engineer, but have never done any coding for multicopters. I have done some reading here, but have not been able to fully understand ArduPilot’s “Follow Me” capabilities.

Below describes what I would like to do, maybe someone can comment and tell if it’s possible with ArduPilot.

I am a mountain biker. I would like to have a multicopter with a GoPro follow me on the trails recording my rides. The idea is to make it seem like another biker is behind me with a chest mounted camera.

The functionality I desire is minimal (notice I did not say simple :slight_smile:) …

  • Follows me from behind.
  • Min flight height from the ground: 2ft.
  • Max flight height from the ground: 5ft to 6ft (basically just above my head).
  • Min distance behind me: 5ft.
  • Max distance behind me: 15ft.
  • Max left or right drift from center: 2ft. (keep it within the trail width).
  • GPS coordinates from a mobile device (iOS hopefully) guides the multicopter as it follows.

The reasoning behind the min and max high is, if I keep it within that range, I don’t have to worry about avoidance detection. My head is not riding into tree branches, so the multicopter should be safe.

A “love to have” feature would be the ability to send the multicopter to a point 500 to 1,000 ft ahead of me down the trail to capture jumps or hard turns, then have it start following me again as I pass the multicopter.

I have a good friend that builds multicopters who can get me started with my own build. If you think this is possible, I’ll start to really dig into learning how to implement ArduPilot on a DIY multicopter.

Thanks,
Chris

Something like this (I photoshopped that drone in) …

(...) #2

I am a mt biker, too and have day dreamed about doing this for a few years now. never materialized, though.

You should read through the documentation here:
http://ardupilot.org/copter/index.html

There is a follow me mode:
http://ardupilot.org/copter/docs/ac2_followme.html

This flight mode requires a GCS (ground control station) with telemetry connection such as a 900MHz radio. There are GCS apps that run on smartphones such as Mission Maker and QGroundControl

…However…attempting to fly it on a densely wooded trail like that is setting yourself up for failure.

  1. your GPS accuracy will suffer from patchy precision and poor accuracy in trees like that.
  2. even worse - your GPS signal on your phone will suffer the same issues (now you have a flying machine that doesnt know exactly where it is trying to follow a moving target that also doesnt know exactly where it is)
  3. active object avoidance is being developed, but still largely immature. (Check out Thien’s progress on VIO & indoor, non GPS navigation here: Integration of ArduPilot and VIO tracking camera (Part 3) - Indoor autonomous flights and performance tests). However, it likely will not be sophisticated enough to fly fast through dense trees autonomously for a few years.

Your best bet would be to try a wide-open trail with minimal trees. Like Syncline Trail in White Salmon, WA for example.

Have you seen the Airdog and Hexo drones? they are developed from the same roots as Arducopter, but are designed specifically for this exact purpose.

Edit: I see you are a software engineer. Here is the git if your interested in digging around: https://github.com/ArduPilot/ardupilot

Edit2: Maybe try one of the Skyviper Journey GPS drones first. They’re cheap and built on the Arducopter platform. I am not personally familiar with them. I do not know if Follow Me is enabled out of the box, but I have seen several people update them with the latest firmware from the repositories and that would certainly allow the Follow Me flight mode

1 Like
(Dave) #3

What ekliptiko said. Even with an Active Track system and object avoidance it would struggle in that scene you posted. I have tried the exact same scenario with a Mavic Air.

With Arducopter and a Ground station the update rate is too slow to really follow a bike unless you are walking it.The PX4 flight stack firmware and using QGC might be more advanced, never tried it.

1 Like
(Chris Simeone) #4

Thanks for your replies!
@ekliptiko, thanks for all the links. Good stuff!
@dkemxr, during all my searches I found PX4.
I will def. look into the info you both provided me. Lots of reading ahead!

(William Mead) #5

The Mavic 2 is pretty good at active track. The sUAS will follow you with the camera while also maneuvering to keep up with you; pretty gucci. Not as satisfying as coding it yourself though, and woods would be tough but its obstacle avoidance is pretty advanced (no sensors facing up, I learned that the hard way). 4k video is nice on it too.

(Umer Salman) #6

Skydio has a really good follow me mode. If you do really want to build it yourself, you may be able to learn from the way they do it.