Google and Amazon might keep an eye out for the MIT drone that can fly and avoid obstacles at high speeds all on its own.
- The drone weighs just over one pound, and has a wingspan of 34 inches
- It can see up to 32 feet ahead, at 120 frames per second
- The estimated price for product was $1,700
- The drone can fly up to speeds of 30 mph
A team of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have managed to solve one of the problems with autonomous flying drones. There have been numerous potential uses for them. For one, Amazon wishes the small aircrafts to one day deliver their packages.
This will be met with various regulations, and one very important hindrance where it concerns autonomous drones: they crash into things. However, scientists at MIT have found a way to prevent it while the small craft will maintain relatively high speeds. It’s one of the biggest advantages that some, delivery services for example, are avidly seeking.
According to lead author of the research and the man who developed the system, Andrew Barry from MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab, while everyone is building drones, no one figured out how to make them avoid obstacles. Their own design, however, achieves that goal rather flawlessly.
The team of researchers posted a video online that shows their autonomous drone swooping, diving, and leaning away from obstacles at speeds up to 30 miles per hour. The small aircraft weights just a little over 1 pound, and has a wingspan of 34 inches. It’s relatively small, very light, and it took only $1,700 to make. It’s around the standard price for high-end drones.
However, the MIT design arrives with exceptional capabilities. It not only flies itself, but it can detect obstacles 32 feet ahead and knows just how to avoid them. Other systems base their object-detecting algorithms on cameras that perceive the depth of spaces in front of the drone. However, this takes away a lot of its power, and makes for slow speeds.
According to Barry, this prevents the engineered small aircraft from making changes and adjustment as quick as it would need. His team’s design though, sees its environment at 120 frames per second. That, along with the fact that it can see 32 feet ahead, is all that it needs.
As stated by the PhD student, other sensors, like LIDAR, are “too heavy” for a drone, and creating maps of every single environment isn’t practical. Instead, there’s a need for drones programmed with algorithms that are better and faster. The problem could be solved within the system itself.
The MIT drone was reportedly constructed with off-the-shelf components, instead of the fancier and more expensive laser radar system used for autonomous cars.
Image source: engadget.com