Autonomous Flying Robots Play the Theme From the James Bond Movies

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.

via Cos­mic Vari­ance

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