About this Research Topic
Recent technological advances have opened up a new frontier for autonomous systems operating in long-term, real-world scenarios, including environmental monitoring, industrial inspection, exploration, and search and rescue. However, in many applications, robots are still controlled manually or semi-autonomously, often with humans directly in the loop. Existing solutions for reliable autonomy are limited to static, known settings, and fall short in environments with high variability, complexity, uncertainty, unpredictability, where interactions are difficult to model and which contain higher-order perception and motion constraints. These aspects present new challenges to the fundamental problems in robotics: control, perception, and planning. These needs must be addressed to enable autonomous agents to operate safely and intelligently in long-term, complex missions.
To address this, this Research Topic aims at gathering novel contributions for enabling robust long-term field autonomy. Focusing particularly on aerial robots, i.e., fixed-wing, multirotor, or hybrid flying platforms, the goal is to push the boundaries of aerial robot autonomy on two main fronts. Firstly, we seek new methods allowing robots to operate robustly, i.e., as long as possible with minimal human intervention. This encompasses possible changes in the platform, e.g., energy-aware planning, possible failures in robotic sensors/actuators, as well as the environment, e.g., dynamic entities, changes in weather/illumination. Secondly, the Research Topic targets deployments in extreme conditions. Examples include environments that are hazardous (harsh temperature/pressure conditions, windy, high radiation risk) and difficult to operate in or model from a robotic perspective (remote, sensor-degraded, cluttered, low-visibility).
This Research Topic focuses on overcoming these challenges to further the practical applicability of aerial robots. Research papers are welcomed that address, but are not limited to, the following topics:
• Energy-aware planning for long-term operation in large spaces
• Day/night multi-weather robustness and autonomy
• Spatial representations for long-term mapping and exploration in unknown/unstructured/large-scale environments
• Robust state estimation and control in high wind and turbulence
• Navigation and planning for persistent environmental monitoring
• Autonomy in repeated missions
• Survivability-aware planning in highly cluttered environments
• Active planning for consistent, reliable mapping in sensor-degraded environments
• Tethered UAV control for long-term operation
• Extreme navigation and failure-robust control
• Reliability-aware localisation solutions for operation in perception degraded environments.
Keywords: long-term autonomy, aerial vehicles, robust operation, extreme environments, mobile robots
Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.