Skydio Autonomy: Research in Robust Visual Navigation and Real-Time 3D Reconstruction

A talk by Hayk Martiros
Head of Autonomy, Skydio

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About this talk

Skydio is the leading US drone company and the world leader in autonomous flight. Our drones are used for everything from capturing amazing video, to inspecting bridges, to tracking progress on construction sites.

At the core of our products is a vision-based autonomy system with seven years of development at Skydio, drawing on decades of academic research. This system pushes the state of the art in deep learning, geometric computer vision, motion planning, and control with a particular focus on real-world robustness.

Drones encounter extreme visual scenarios not typically considered by academia nor encountered by cars, ground robots, or AR applications. They are commonly flown in scenes with few or no semantic priors and must deftly navigate thin objects, extreme lighting, camera artifacts, motion blur, textureless surfaces, vibrations, dirt, camera smudges, and fog. These challenges are daunting for classical vision - because photometric signals are simply not consistent and for learning-based methods - because there is no ground truth for direct supervision of deep networks.

In this talk we'll take a detailed look at these issues and the algorithms we've developed to tackle them. We will also cover the new capabilities on top of our core navigation engine to autonomously map complex scenes and capture all surfaces, by performing real-time 3D reconstruction across multiple flights.

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