Aerial-Biped Is a Quadrotor With Legs That Can Fly-Walk

Walking around wouldn’t be nearly so hard if you could just shut gravity off for a bit A couple years ago, we wrote about a robot called BALLU from Dennis Hong at UCLA—essentially a blimp with skinny little legs, BALLU made walking easier by taking gravity out of the equation. If your robot doesn’t weigh anything, you don’t have to worry about falling over, right? Inspired in part by BALLU, researchers from the University of Tokyo have developed a quadrotor with legs called Aerial-Biped. Designed primarily for entertainment, Aerial-Biped enables “a richer physical expression” by automatically generating walking gaits in sync with its quadrotor body.

Review: Parrot Anafi Drone

Parrot reenters the consumer drone space with the innovative new Anafi Parrot was one of the first (if not the absolute first) companies to take a crack at the consumer drone space. The AR Drone came out in 2010 (!), and Parrot followed it up a solid upgrade in the AR Drone 2.0 a few years later. Since then, we’ve seen the Bebop, some clever flying toys, and had a bunch of fun with the fixed-wing Disco. But at this point, most consumers probably think DJI when they think of camera drones, because of how pervasive Phantoms and Mavics are. It’s not like this caught Parrot by surprise or anything—two years ago, they saw the direction that the market was trending, and started working on a completely new consumer platform designed to be exceptionally easy to use and exceptionally portable, with the ability to produce exceptionally good aerial videos. Earlier last Continue reading Review: Parrot Anafi Drone

Flying Dragon Robot Transforms Itself to Squeeze Through Gaps

DRAGON can change its shape to move through complex environments and even manipulate objects Photo: JSK Lab/University of TokyoDRAGON is able to autonomously decide how to transform when given the constraints of the space it needs to pass through. There’s been a lot of recent focus on applications for aerial robots, and one of the areas with the most potential is indoors. The thing about indoors is that by definition you have to go through doors to get there, and once you’re inside, there are all kinds of things that are horribly dangerous to aerial robots, like more doors, walls, windows, people, furniture, hanging plants, lampshades, and other aerial robots, inevitably followed by still more doors. One solution is to make your robots super small, so that they can fit through small openings without running into something fragile and expensive, but then you’re stuck with small robots that can’t do Continue reading Flying Dragon Robot Transforms Itself to Squeeze Through Gaps

Verity Studios Raises $18M for Safe Swarming Drone Displays

Safe and reliable swarming drone tech could be making its way into consumer drones Photo: Cirque du Soleil/Richard TermineIn 2016 Verity Studios worked with Cirque du Soleil to bring flying lampshade drones to its show Paramour. Verity Studios, which took precision drone swarm technology from ETH Zurich and turned it into a spectacular live event display system, has announced a round of Series A funding totaling US $18 million from Fontinalis Partners, Airbus Ventures, Sony Innovation Fund, and Kitty Hawk. This is a lot of money for a company that most people may not know exists even if they view a Verity-powered  drone show firsthand, but that’s part of what makes Verity special: Everything they do is reliable, seamless, and safe, leading to experiences that have a truly mesmerizing effect. The reason we follow companies like Verity so closely, and the reason why we’re happy when they get funded, is because Continue reading Verity Studios Raises $18M for Safe Swarming Drone Displays

Quadrotor Safety System Stops Propellers Before You Lose a Finger

With spinning hoops to detect obstacles combined with electromagnetic braking, this quadrotor safety system is both effective and cheap Photo: Evan Ackerman/IEEE Spectrum Quadrotors have a reputation for being both fun and expensive, but it’s not usually obvious how dangerous they can be. While it’s pretty clear from the get-go that it’s in everyone’s best interest to avoid the spinny bits whenever possible, quadrotor safety primarily involves doing little more than trying your level best not to run into people. Not running into people with your drone is generally good advice, but the problems tend to happen when for whatever reason the drone escapes from your control. Maybe it’s your fault, maybe it’s the drone’s fault, but either way, those spinny bits can cause serious damage. Safety-conscious quadrotor pilots have few options for making their drones safer, and none of them are all that great, due either to mediocre effectiveness Continue reading Quadrotor Safety System Stops Propellers Before You Lose a Finger

FlyJacket Lets You Control a Drone With Your Body

EPFL’s FlyJacket exosuit allows you to embody a fixed-wing drone, making it feel like you’re flying Photo: EPFL LIS It takes a lot of practice to fly a drone with confidence. Whether it’s a multirotor or a fixed-wing drone, there are a lot of complicated things going on all at once, and most of the control systems are not even a little bit intuitive. The first-person viewpoint afforded by drone-mounted cameras and VR headsets helps, but you’re still stuck with trying to use a couple of movable sticks to manage a flying robot, which takes both experience and concentration. EPFL has developed a much better system for drone control, taking away the sticks and replacing them with intuitive and comfortable movements of your entire body. It’s an upper-body soft exoskeleton called FlyJacket, and with it on, you can pilot a fixed-wing drone by embodying the drone—put your arms out like Continue reading FlyJacket Lets You Control a Drone With Your Body

See Straight Through Walls by Augmenting Your Eyeballs With Drones

A drone combined with a HoloLens can simulate X-ray vision while offering easy and intuitive control Image: Graz University of Technology Robots make fantastic remote-sensing systems, ideal for sending in to disaster areas or for search-and-rescue. Drones in particular can move rapidly over large areas or through structures, identifying damage or looking for survivors by sending a video feed from their on-board cameras to a remote operator. While the data that drones provide can be invaluable, managing them can be quite difficult, especially once they get beyond line-of-sight. Researchers from Graz University of Technology, in Styria, Austria, led by Okan Erat, want to change the way we interface with drones, using augmented reality to turn them from complicated flying robots into remote cameras that an untrained user can easily control. Through a HoloLens—Microsoft’s mixed reality head-mounted display—a drone can enable a sort of X-ray vision, allowing you to see straight through Continue reading See Straight Through Walls by Augmenting Your Eyeballs With Drones

Zipline’s Bigger, Faster Drones Will Deliver Blood in the United States This Year

After taking over deliveries for 20 percent of rural Rwanda’s blood supply, Zipline is introducing its drone fleet to the rural United States Photo: Zipline We’ve been following Zipline very closely for the last few years. The delivery drone startup has been operating in Rwanda since October of 2016, using small autonomous fixed-wing aircraft to paradrop critical blood products to rural medical clinics. T he system is able to get blood from a centralized distribution center to where it’s needed in minutes, independent of time of day, traffic, or weather. Zipline now manages 20 percent of rural Rwanda’s blood supply, and has flown more than 300,000 kilometers (km) worth of commercial deliveries, carrying some 7,000 units of blood. Today, Zipline is announcing major upgrades to its entire delivery system, introducing a bigger drone that can deliver blood faster and more efficiently than ever. The new hardware is already flying in Continue reading Zipline’s Bigger, Faster Drones Will Deliver Blood in the United States This Year

Research Proves Drones Sound Like Bees, Which Is Good News for Elephants

There isn’t much that scares an elephant, but drones designed to sound like bees could help save them Photo: iStock Photo There isn’t much that scares a fully grown African elephant. Lions? Maybe a little bit. Humans? Not really. Mice? Nah, that’s kind of a myth. It turns out that what really scares elephants is something much smaller, although it can fly in large swarms: honeybees. And it makes sense, because an elephant’s bulk doesn’t do much to protect it from bees, which can find all kinds of unpleasant nooks and crannies to sting. Elephants reliably flee from bees, which has led some communities to create fences made of beehives to keep elephants from raiding their crops. It works pretty well. The Duke researchers ran a series of tests to compare bee sounds with drone sounds, and were able to show that especially at the high frequency ranges, the similarities are Continue reading Research Proves Drones Sound Like Bees, Which Is Good News for Elephants

Skydio Demonstrates Incredible Obstacle-Dodging Full Autonomy With New R1 Consumer Drone

The Skydio R1 is years ahead of just about any other autonomous drone we’ve ever seen Image: Skydio Almost two years ago, a startup called Skydio posted some video of a weird-looking drone autonomously following people as they jogged and biked along paths and around trees. Even without much in the way of detail, this was exciting for three reasons: First, the drone was moving at a useful speed and not crashing into stuff using only onboard sensing and computing, and second, the folks behind Skydio included Adam Bry and Abe Bachrach, who worked on high-speed autonomous flight at MIT before cofounding Project Wing at Google[x] (now just called X). The third reason we were excited about Skydio’s drone was that, as much as it looked like a research project, it was actually designed to be commercialized, and today, Skydio is (finally!) announcing their first product: the R1, a fully Continue reading Skydio Demonstrates Incredible Obstacle-Dodging Full Autonomy With New R1 Consumer Drone