During my stay in Zürich I worked at the Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control (IDSC) at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. I was a part of Professor Raffaello D’Andrea’s research group and worked in the Flying Machine Arena (FMA) – a testing environment for autonomous aerial vehicles. Specifically, I was involved in the aerial construction project lead by Ph.D. candidate Federico Augugliaro. My task was to redesign a rope deployment system in which the tension of the rope could be actively controlled. This device was attached to the bottom of a quadrocopter, which could build rope structures in the FMA.
Over the course of three months, I gained valuable experience in many different areas. My responsibilities included creating a solid model of the newly designed spool and following through with the entire fabrication process. This included machining several parts, ordering others, building circuits, and finally assembling both the mechanical and electrical components. In addition, I also investigated and tested some methods of control on a prototype spool with MATLAB.
The spool I built was redesigned to include a motor to apply a counter torque while the rope was being unwound. At the same time, I also managed to reduce the weight, even with the extra components. The motor was controlled by an onboard microprocessor, which changed the duty cycle of the pulse width modulated signal to adjust the resistive torque.
My stay in Switzerland was amazing. I was warmly welcomed at the lab and had no trouble making many friends. On weekends I spent most of my time travelling and touring many places I had never seen before. It was a perfect balance of work and fun.