Yesterday we featured a video of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Sweet Home Alabama” being played on a pair of Tesla coils. Today we keep the music going with something perhaps even more amazing: a swarm of autonomous flying robots playing the theme from the James Bond movies.
The robots were developed at the University of Pennsylvania’s General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) lab by graduate students Daniel Mellinger and Alex Kushleyev, founders of KMel Robotics, under the supervision of Professor Vijay Kumar. The researchers are working to develop agile, autonomous flying robots that can mimic the swarming behaviors of birds, fish and insects. In the video above, which was created specially for Kumar’s February 29 TED talk, a swarm of nine quadrotor helicopters play musical instruments. An article on the UPenn website explains:
In this demonstration, the “stage” is in a room fitted with infrared lights and cameras. The nano quads all 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.
The robots are remarkably agile, and may someday be useful for a wide variety of applications. To learn more, watch Kumar’s 17-minute TED talk, below, which includes several astonishing video demonstrations of the robots in action.