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Smart Flying Robot

December 4, 2012

A new flying robot can sense and dodge obstacles.



Smarter flying robots.  I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

There are robots that fly, and robots that can sense and avoid obstacles.  But it’s  hard to combine the two – because sensory systems, like lasers, are often heavy and use lots of power.  Now, Cornell University computer scientist Ashutosh Saxena and his colleagues have found a solution. He’s designed a flying robot that can judge visual images, and determine whether objects are close, far, or in between.  If an object’s close, it steers clear of it.

ASHUTOSH SAXENA (Cornell University):

… If something is very far, then you don’t need to worry about it.  And something is in the middle is used for a little bit more planning.

The robot is programmed to learn from example photos, and hone its judgment over time. Recent test flights were over 95 percent successful. One possible application is search and rescue missions – in which the robots could explore dangerous disaster areas without remote control.  I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

Robot in flight. (Saxena Lab)