By Jason Paur Email Author February 3, 2012
Roboticists at the University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP are able to get as many as 20 of their autonomous microcopters to fly in formation and perform complex maneuvers flawlessly.
In an impressive new video, the GRASP — General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception — team makes their swarm of flying microbots flip, change direction, navigate through obstacles and even fly figure-eights with jaw-dropping agility and precision.
GRASP has since 2010 made remarkable advancements in the capabilities of their tiny quadrotors, developed by Kmel Robotics, and documented them with a series of videos showing bots flying hoops and building a tower-like structure. The lab is developing the ability to fly autonomously in formation, communicating with each other to maintain position. Last year the team demonstrated a basic formation flight with a lost-communication demonstration where one of the aircraft drops out on its own.
There is still plenty of human input as the tiny UAVs are programmed to fly various tasks. No Skynet yet. Such machines could be used for surveillance or search-and-rescue missions. They’re also just plain cool to watch.
As we wait for the next trick, we hope becoming self aware is indeed just science fiction.