Towards In-Flight Transfer of Payloads between Multirotors

Ajay Shankar, Sebastian Elbaum, Carrick Detweiler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Multirotor unmanned aerial systems (UASs) are often used to transport a variety of payloads. However, the maximum time that the cargo can remain airborne is limited by the flight endurance of the UAS. In this letter, we present a novel approach for two multirotors to transfer a payload between them in-air, while keeping the payload aloft and stationary. Our framework is built on a visual-feedback and grasping pipeline that enables one UAS to grasp the payload held by another, thereby allowing the UASs to act as swappable carriers. By connecting the payload outwards along a single rigid link, and allowing the UASs to maneuver about it, we let the payload remain online while it is transferred to a different carrier. Furthermore, building entirely on monocular vision, the approach does not rely on precise extrinsic localization systems. We demonstrate our proposed strategy in a variety of indoor and GPS-free outdoor experiments, and explore the range of operating limits for our system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number9146665
Pages (from-to)6201-6208
Number of pages8
JournalIEEE Robotics and Automation Letters
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • Field robots
  • aerial systems: applications
  • perception for grasping and manipulation
  • visual servoing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Control and Optimization
  • Artificial Intelligence


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