This article was originally published on March 3, 2012.
Ever imagined James Bond’s gadgets becoming real? Yes, it does. A group of flying robots managed to play the James Bond theme music without any human control. Instead, they are controlled by a computer that communicates with robots. These robots are known as quadrotors – a type of small helicopter.
These mini drones with four rotors are fitted with gyroscopes and various sensors to feed information about its exact position and things around it to an on-board processor. The on-board processor acts as a brain and send commands to rotors allowing it to react autonomously. By moving each rotor at different speeds, the bots can tilt and turn. Using the infrared sensors, robots can fly freely in any direction without colliding with each other.
These robots are hoped to have various applications in the future like surveillance and could even work together to build structures. They can be sent in buildings as first respond to look for intruders or check biochemical leaks into collapsed buildings after disasters or into reactor buildings to check radiation levels. Each is small, but together, they can lift loads and help in construction.
A video has been filmed as the aerial robots play an electronic keyboard, a drum, cymbal and a giant guitar made from an old sofa. These quadrotors were programmed to hit every note and play the instruments. Video was shown at TED2012 conference in Long Beach, California.
General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Lab at the University of Pennsylvania carried out the project. The “stage” is in a room fitted with infrared lights and cameras. The nano quads have reflectors on their struts, which allows the camera system to plot their exact position and relay that information wirelessly to each unit.
Lab members can then assign each unit a series of waypoints in three-dimensional space that must be reached at an exact time. In this case, those times and places translate into notes on a keyboard or a strum of a guitar. Figuring out how to get from waypoint to waypoint most efficiently and without disturbing their neighbors is up to the robots.
A video of University of Pennsylvania professor Vijay Kumar showing off palm-sized “agile aerial robots” at the TED conference. “Robots like this have many applications,” Kumar said. He held in one hand a small robot resembling a miniature helicopter with four rotors. “There is no GPS,” Kumar explained. “The coordinate system is defined by the robot, where it is and what it is looking at.”
Once we know how to fly in formation, you can actually pick up objects cooperatively. We can double, triple, quadruple the robots strength by getting them to team with neighbors.
The GRASP Lab previously demonstrated that their mini-drones can turn, flip, fly in formation, zip through a hula hoop that’s thrown in the air, and come zooming back to their human users when thrown off a balcony, like high-tech boomerangs. These aerial robots are the work of doctoral students Alex Kushleyev and Daniel Mellinger.
To learn more: https://www.grasp.upenn.edu
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