MAV-VUE: Flying a micro-drone with an iPhone



Micro-Aerial Vehicle: Visualization of Unexplored Environments
Using an iPhone to fly a small, autonomous drone.


Winner of the Chorafas Foundation 2010 Award for outstanding research


A patent, Perceived First Order Control of an Unmanned Vehicle for controlling an unmanned vehicle from a hand-held device


MAV-VUE is the result of my Master’s of Engineering research from 2008-2010. My thesis, Collaborative Exploration of Unexplored Environments with a Micro Aerial Vehicle, is based upon this research.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), such as the military’s Predator drone, currently require sophisticated and intensive training to operate. For example, an Air Force Predator UAV requires two full-time operators, both certified pilots who have attended a 10-week training course. Advances in UAV design have led to personal, micro aerial vehicles (MAVs) which can range in size from a fly to a basketball. MAVs are even more difficult to fly than their larger cousins due to a lack of conventional control surfaces like rudders and flaps. These MAVs are intended for use by soldiers or other highly trained first-responder personnel for real-time scouting and exploration. It is therefore impractical to demand the additional specialized training required to operate such a complex craft with a traditional joystick or remote control.

For my Master’s research in the Humans & Automation Lab, I created an interface for flying these MAVs which uses an iPhone. In fact, this innovation, which can work on any hand-held device, can be extended to operate any robot such as a bomb disposal robot. This is a revolutionary method of remotely operating the vehicle, eliminating several outstanding issues which have existed in the field of teleoperation for over 40 years.

By developing a simple and intuitive method of controlling MAVs, I have enabled a variety of groups to use this powerful asset. Many real-world applications for robots have been on hold for years because of the knowledge required to operate them, such as inspecting structures, exploring new environments, and performing dangerous tasks.

The unmanned drone used in experiments


The Map & Waypoint UI


The “manual” flight control UI


Increasing the altitude


Diagram of Perceived First Order Control