A doctoral student at MIT built a drone that is able to avoid objects on its own, without the need for human assistance and without knowing the area beforehand.
The drone – shown in a video clip posted by researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory – was able to avoid obstacles like trees, while flying at speeds of up to 30 miles per hour (about 48.2 kilometres per hour).
Andrew Barry, doctoral student at MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) worked with Russ Tedrake, an associate professor in the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, to create the project.
Barry says that the drone is able to ditch the objects because it can independently scan them using a sensor, and then it sends its findings to a computer.
Mr. Barry did not like the slow speeds of current software, which is why he developed one that makes calculations 20 times faster than previous drone software.
In a post on the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory website, Barry said that everybody is building drones nowadays, but no one knows how to make them evade objects and not run into them. According to him, better and faster algorithms are needed for better speed and navigation of the drones.
The new drone weighs about one pound (0.45 kilograms) and it is 34 inches wide. To make the drone, the researchers paid approximately $1,700.
Smaller measurements of 10 metres helped the drone build a map while still being able to reach higher speed, Barry stated. The drone’s software may be improved to work at multiple depths, the student added.
On Monday, Google announced that drones are expected to deliver packages by 2017. At a convention for air traffic controllers in Washington, David Vos, the leader of Alphabet’s Project Wing said that, if approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, drones could fly at an altitude of 500 feet (152.4 metres). Alphabet Inc. is the parent company of Google and several other companies.
However, Barry believes that a lot more advances need to take place before people can use drones more widely, especially for delivery services. For instance airplanes travel at about 300 miles per hour (482.8 kilometres per hour), which means that drones would have to be able to make quick decisions to avoid getting hit. Currently, the new drone can only ‘see’ 10 metres ahead at a time.
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