Soft Multicopter Control using Neural Dynamics Identification

by   Yitong Deng, et al.

Dynamic control of a soft-body robot to deliver complex behaviors with low-dimensional actuation inputs is challenging. In this paper, we present a computational approach to automatically generate versatile, underactuated control policies that drives soft-bodied machines with complicated structures and nonlinear dynamics. Our target application is focused on the autonomous control of a soft multicopter, featured by its elastic material components, non-conventional shapes, and asymmetric rotor layouts, to precisely deliver compliant deformation and agile locomotion. The central piece of our approach lies in a lightweight neural surrogate model to identify and predict the temporal evolution of a set of geometric variables characterizing an elastic soft body. This physics-based learning model is further integrated into a Linear Quadratic Regulator (LQR) control loop enhanced by a novel online fixed-point relinearization scheme to accommodate the dynamic body balance, allowing an aggressive reduction of the computational overhead caused by the conventional full-scale sensing-simulation-control workflow. We demonstrate the efficacy of our approach by generating controllers for a broad spectrum of customized soft multicopter designs and testing them in a high-fidelity physics simulation environment. The control algorithm enables the multicopters to perform a variety of tasks, including hovering, trajectory tracking, cruising and active deforming.


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