Current Research Projects

Enabling Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Drones) to use Tools in Complex Dynamic Environments

This project is led by the University of Canterbury, funded by the New Zealand Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment

Karl Stol, Bruce MacDonald, Peter Xu, Shahab Kazemi, Nicholas Kay, Salim Al-zubaidiChantelle Singh, Caleb Probine, David Yang, Jonty Kirk, Katrina Chan, Jos Spaans, Sam Gilbert, Benjamin Holt, Cameron Dallas, Lex Hostler, Raymond Hu

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs/drones) are revolutionising surveying and inspection tasks which once required manned aircraft, and are becoming a standard tool for a wide range of applications. However, one glaring omission is the ability to accurately use tools to perform precision tasks in high and hard-to-reach locations. 

This research will design, build and demonstrate a compact UAV with precise six degrees-of-freedom positioning capability enabled by new control methods, airframe designs, aerodynamic models, and position estimation (visual odometry) in dynamically changing (windy) environments.

Rotor Configuration and Control of High Precision Drones

PhD Research

Salim Al-zubaidi. Supervisors: Karl Stol & Peter Xu

With the rise of the UAV use in interaction, the ability of the UAV to change the contact force instantaneously and the control of all axes independently became important aspect of the UAV performance. 

This research aims to present a new UAV configuration with the potential for improved horizontal agility. An optimisation process is developed to maximise the horizontal bandwidth. A control algorithm will be developed to make use of the improved capabilities of the UAV.



Dexterity assessment of over-actuated drones

Masters Research

Chantelle Singh. Supervisor: Karl Stol

Aerial manipulation is the ability to interact with the environment using a UAV. This is typically achieved using a tool or an aerial manipulator. An important characteristic in whether manipulation is successful is dexterity. There is yet to be a standardized way to assess the dexterity of UAVs.
This project will focus on developing a standardized dexterity assessment consisting of several tests to determine how dexterous an over-actuated UAV is. It will be such that it is easily replicated and can be used on a range of UAVs.


An adaptable leg for multirotor UAVs

Summer Research Project

Junwoo Park. Supervisor: Shahab Kazemi

Although UAVs have been developed to undertake a wide range of tasks which humans cannot accomplish, they face difficulties in being exposed to inaccessible and challenging environments. These disturbances, such as wind, can degrade the station-keeping performance of a UAV during missions, hindering its ability to complete the task.

This research is focused on designing effective and adjustable legs for UAVs, which provide vertical or multi-dimension support within various ranges of environment, allowing the UAV to perch like a bird when needed.

Agile and efficient? Novel lift rotors for a multirotor drone

Summer Research Project

Ivan Hsu. Supervisor: Nicholas Kay

Multirotor drones that perform precise physical tasks outdoors must be both efficient and agile. Efficiency means extended flight durations for tasks, while agility allows the drone to effectively counter the impact of disturbances. However, with fixed pitch propellers, these requirements tend to conflict with each other as a larger rotor is more efficient, but less agile due to its large rotational inertia.

One solution is to use a variable pitch mechanism, which can adjust the angle of the blades and generate a rapid change in thrust. This project aims to analyse the efficiency and agility of a variable pitch rotor in conjunction with a standard fixed rotor in a co-axial configuration.