MIT’s intelligent drone can avoid crashes and fly at 30 MPH

5 Nov 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

New drone can navigate on its own at high speeds.

Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have released a video of a drone they built that can not only fly itself, but also navigate between obstructions in its path when flying at speed. Called , the drone was built in-house by researchers Adam Barry and Russ Tedrake, with the Robot Locomotion team at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab (CSAIL).

While we have seen drones that can navigate obstacles before, those are usually flying pretty slow, and carrying out huge computations on the custom onboard processor. The difference here is that Pushbroom was built using easily available parts, and a processor as powerful as what you’d find in your smartphone, all for a total of US $1,700. Barry’s frustrations with the slow speeds of software and the impracticalities of creating maps for navigation, spurring an effort to create a drone that can move on its own, even in uncharted areas. Barry found by using smaller measurements of 10 meters to identify dimensions, the drone could build a map of the world and still reach higher speeds.

He noted the software could be improved to allow the drone to steer through thicker patches of trees by working “at more than one depth.” “Our current approach results in occasional incorrect estimates known as ‘drift,’ ” he said. “As hardware advances allow for more complex computation, we will be able to search at multiple depths and therefore check and correct our estimates. This lets us make our algorithms more aggressive, even in environments with larger numbers of obstacles.” The discovery comes as Google announced on Monday it expects to begin using drones to deliver packages by 2017. David Vos, the leader of Google parent company Alphabet’s Project Wing, the company’s delivery arm, said at a convention in Washington for air traffic controllers that pending approval by the Federal Aviation Administration, the drones would fly at an altitude of 500 feet and work through a combination of the Internet and cellular technology, according to Reuters.

But Barry told The Washington Post many advances still need to take place before drones can be more widely used, particularly for delivery services, where the machines will need to better sense the barrage of dangers that come along with an urbanized environment, and its rules. Many of the regulations and technologies that would be needed for a new world of drone travel are still being hashed out including regulations that ban drones near airports – difficult in larger cities. “Is this going to solve drones hitting airliners?” Barry said to the Post. “No, because airliners are coming in at 300 m.p.h.

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