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Computer Vision Group
Faculty of Informatics
Technical University of Munich

Technical University of Munich

Home Teaching Summer Semester 2012 Lecture: Visual Navigation for Flying Robots

Lecture: Visual Navigation for Flying Robots

In recent years, flying robots such as quadcopters have gained increased interest in robotics and computer vision research. For navigating safely, these robots need the ability to localize themselves autonomously using their onboard sensors. Potential applications of such systems include the autonomous 3D reconstruction of buildings, inspection and simple maintenance tasks, surveillance of public places as well as in search and rescue systems.

(6 ECTS, changed on 12.7.2012)

December 07, 2012: This course has been distinguished with the Teach Inf Award 2011/12 at our faculty for the best lecture in computer science in the summer term 2012. Thank you very much for your support!


In this course, we will provide an overview of current techniques for 3D localization, mapping and navigation that are suitable for quadcopters. This course will cover the following topics:

- necessary background on robot hardware, sensors, 3D transformations

- motion estimation from images (including interest point detection, feature descriptors, robust estimation, visual odometry, iteratively closest point)

- filtering techniques and data fusion

- non-linear minimization, bundle adjustment, place recognition, 3D reconstruction

- autonomous navigation and exploration of unknown environments

The lecture will be accompanied by a lab course where the students will implement their own visual navigation system. This course is an excellent preparation for a master thesis project in this area.

Lab Course

Exercise sheets will be passed out every other week, containing both theoretical problems and programming exercises (in C++). In an exercise group every other week, we will discuss the solutions to the theory problems and the programming problems. Active participation in the exercises is the requirement for participation in the final exam. This will be written or oral, depending on the number of attendees. The questions will cover all material presented in class.

The practical exercises will be implemented directly on a Parrot Ardrone quadrocopter, so we expect a lot of fun (and broken propellors).


The lecture will be given by Jürgen Sturm.

Lecture: Tuesday, 10:15-11:45, room 02.09.23 (FMI, Boltzmannstrasse 3)

Teaching assistant: Nikolas Engelhard

Lab course/practice: Thursday: 14:15-15:45, room 02.09.23 or 02.09.38 (lab) (FMI, Boltzmannstrasse 3)

Registration: via TUM campus

The oral exam takes place in room 02.09.59. Sign up for a time slot on the list in front of the secretary (room 02.09.52). On the examination day: Please take a seat in the sofa corner in front of room 02.09.52 until we pick you up.


A printer ready version (two sides, six pages per sheet) of the lecture notes can be found here: pdf

Date Slides
17.04.2012 Introduction pdf avi mp4 (sorry, poor audio quality!)
24.04.2012 Linear algebra, geometry, sensors pdf mp4 (bad synchronization + missing end –> use pdf)
08.05.2012 State estimation pdf mp4 (bad synchronization –> use pdf)
15.05.2012 Guest talks
22.05.2012 Robot control pdf mp4
05.06.2012 Visual motion estimation pdf mp4
12.06.2012 Simultaneous localization and mapping pdf mp4
19.06.2012 Bundle adjustment and stereo correspondence pdf mp4
26.06.2012 Place recognition, ICP, and dense reconstruction pdf mp4
03.07.2012 Global navigation and path planning pdf mp4
10.07.2012 Planning under uncertainty, exploration and coordination pdf mp4
17.07.2012 Evaluation and benchmarking, time for questions pdf mp4

Recordings can also be found on the TUM TeleTeachingTool website. The raw recordings (before processing) can usually be found a few days before they have been post-processed as MP4 here.

Date Exercise
19.04.2012 Robot lab pdftgz tgz bag1bag2bag3
26.04.2012 Robot lab
03.05.2012 Exercise: Robot Odometry pdf
10.05.2012 Robot lab pdf (Last update: May 14, 12:00)
24.05.2012 Exercise: Robot Localization pdf (Last update: May 24, 21:30)
31.05.2012 Robot lab pdf (Last update: June 4, 12:00)
14.06.2012 Exercise: Position Control pdf
21.06.2012 Exercise: Project proposal pdf pdf
28.06.2012 Robot lab
05.07.2012 Exercise: Project mid-term pdf
12.07.2012 Robot lab
19.07.2012 Exercise: Project presentation pdf pdf

The participation in the exercises is obligatory. Participation in the robot lab is recommended, but not mandatory.

Student Projects

Project title Team name Proposal Midterm Final
Trajectory Generation and Following with Position Correction Crash Pilots pdf pdf pdf
Localization with a particle filter Viking pdf
Autonomous Landing on a Moving Platform Beer pdf pdf pdf
Circling around a person Dragon Sheep pdf pdf
Autonomous flying drone for building surveillance Red Onepdf pdf pdf
Using a Saliency Map to turn the Quadcopter towards interesting points Brezelpdf pdf pdf
Gesture Based Control Weissbier pdf pdf pdf
Fast landing on a moving vehicle Roter Baron pdf pdf pdf
Autonomous Landing on a Moving Platform Weisswurst pdf pdf pdf

The video-taped talks from the final presentations are now available online (password required, same as for ICRA proceedings).


  • Probabilistic Robotics. Sebastian Thrun, Wolfram Burgard and Dieter Fox. MIT Press, 2005.
  • Computer Vision: Algorithms and Applications. Richard Szeliski. Springer, 2010.

Further Material

Other Publications
Lecture Notes: Visual Navigation for Flying Robots (J. Sturm), Technische Universität München, Germany, 2013. [bib] [pdf]Distinguished with the TUM TeachInf Award for the best lecture in summer term 2013
Lecture Notes: Visual Navigation for Flying Robots (J. Sturm), Technische Universität München, Germany, 2012. [bib] [pdf]Distinguished with the TUM TeachInf Award for the best lecture in summer term 2012
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