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Logo of an orange fox with glasses in front of a purple box with the characters, "tk6"

Team name

Team TK6 


UAS 4.0: Indoor solution summary

At the heart of Team TK6’s strategy was the development of a quadcopter that was both lightweight and cost effective in order to meet first responder requirements for search and rescue requirements. To achieve this, they relied on commercially available off-the-shelf components, which not only helped to reduce overall costs but ensured that spare parts were easily accessible. Their base vehicle weighed 350g and measured only 450mm diagonally. By using a modular approach to payload and easily swappable batteries, the operator could easily customize the quadcopter with RGB, thermal, or night vision capability and adjust battery capacity to meet the needs of the particular mission. They optimized the power system to achieve an efficiency of greater than 7 g/w (thrust in grams per watt of power), resulting in an average flight time of 20 minutes that could be extended up to 30 minutes with the high-density Li-Ion battery option. For comparison, standard vehicle setups with similar motor sizes have efficiencies in the range of 2-5 g/w. The low weight and compact size allowed exploration of tight spaces and made the vehicle resilient to propeller strikes and collisions which are inevitable when exploring an unknown environment. 

Their sensor suite was capable of transmitting full 1080p video at up to 120FPS to allow for first-person view (FPV) flying, while the downward-facing camera ensured stable hover in GPS-denied environments, reducing pilot workload. The particular camera sensor used allowed for extremely low light operation without the use of IR or LEDs to assist in covert operations. In a normal use case, built-in LEDs (which can be switched out for the IR-LED variant) assist in exploring areas that otherwise would be in pitch-black darkness. The system included a ground station computer, but could also be operated using only an FPV headset/external monitor, which would reduce the amount of equipment needed to be carried by the operator on-site. In summary, the compact and lightweight solution cost was under $2,000, making it an affordable option for first responders and others who need a collision-resistant, high-performance quadcopter, capable of visual exploration of unknown environments. 

Computer generated representation of a drone prototype

Team description and individual biographies

Team TK6 is a two-person team consisting of Ghanghoon Paik and Vidullan Surendran, formed while they pursued their graduate studies in Aerospace Engineering at Pennsylvania State University. Ghanghoon Paik is currently a PhD candidate and his primary research areas are astrodynamics, interplanetary mission design, trajectory optimization, and control systems. His dissertation research focuses on the development of an automated tool to generate optimal trajectories for powered gravity assist maneuvers. His other interests include UAS, robotics, computational science, and software development. Vidullan, who received his doctorate in 2023, is currently developing computer vision systems for humanoid robotics capable of scene segmentation and world modeling on low SWaP computers. His other passion is the development of micro-UAVs capable of operation in indoor GPS-denied environments, with a focus on perception capabilities such as mapping and autonomy that improve human-vehicle team effectiveness. 

Created June 5, 2023