A Shared Control Teleoperation Framework for Robotic Airships: Combining Intuitive Interfaces and an Autonomous Landing System

Small, lighter-than-air (LTA) robotic airship platforms offer an alternative to the more common, rotor-based Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). LTA vehicles are attractive due to their inherent safety, mobility, low power consumption, and extended flight times, making them suitable for operation in populated indoor environments. This paper explores the use of shared control strategies for teleoperation of miniature indoor robotic airships, paired with an autonomous landing and charging system. The teleoperation scheme passes the operator inputs to the airship actuators in a standardized manner, allowing for simple integration with various control input devices. Specifically, this work employs three different devices with distinctive user input mechanics. The autonomous landing system relies on ArUco markers and an on-board camera for state estimation. The developed docking station relies on a magnet-based winch mechanism that catches and pulls the airship to the appropriate position for charging. Finally, the shared control teleoperation framework is validated through a series of experiments involving user-guided indoor exploration and autonomous landing, with promising results.