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U. Penn Super Quadcopter Learns New Tricks

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  • by 5pp000 (873881) *

    I don't think so. That sucker is NOISY.

    Cool aerobatics though.

    • by Dyinobal (1427207) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @02:53PM (#33629086)
      It does make a distinct sound and sounds like that in a war-zone can have a terrifying effect, psychologically on enemy troops.
      • by sznupi (719324)

        Can't wait for a version with two swiveling turbines at the tips of small wing, eh?

      • by couchslug (175151)

        "It does make a distinct sound and sounds like that in a war-zone can have a terrifying effect, psychologically on enemy troops."

        Until they learn to range it by sound and take countermeasures...

        "Frightfulness" gets the low-hanging fruit, but disciplined men have stood incredible barrages (WWI being the best example) and stood fast despite losing tens of thousands killed in a single day.

      • by TangoMargarine (1617195) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @06:02PM (#33630290) Journal
        Yeah, imagine being killed by a flying army of vuvuzelas. Yech.
      • Although the sound of 3 or so technicians mounting 20 mocap cameras around a war zone, followed by a technician waving his magic wand around the soldiers to calibrate the cameras, before finally wheeling in the various servers needed to interpret and analyse motion capture data may ruin the element of surprise somewhat......
        • by tibit (1762298)

          This should be modded insightful. The aircraft have no inertial references AFAIK. All they are is four remotely controlled motors. All of the real-time processing for the control is done elsewhere in the room. The aircraft have retro-reflective markers and external motion capture is used to get feedback for the control system. If you were to try and reproduce their results, the stumbling block would be the price of the Vicon motion capture system with 1000Hz sampling rate cameras. Those aren't cheap.

      • Although the sound of 3 technicians positioning the 20 mocap cameras around the soldiers in a warzone, followed by the man in black lycra waving the camera calibration wand over the heads of the enemy, followed by the wheeling in of the servers and computer equipment required to capture and analyse the gigs of data generated by the mocap suite may ruin the element of surprise somewhat......
    • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 19, 2010 @03:03PM (#33629142)

      They could use it to track autonomous Audis, better than crashing helicopters.

    • Sure it's noisy, but did you see how fast that thing moved? You'd be awake for about a second, max, before it was on you.

      • Not faster than a Phalanx with Lockheed Martin's new laser system mounted on it.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phalanx_CIWS [wikipedia.org]

        So, until they're faster than light, I'm not concerned =)

        • Not faster than a Phalanx

          So you're saying you have a Phalanx in your bedroom?

          Wait, don't answer that - TMI.

        • by x2A (858210)

          Now if we made a cross between that, and this [youtube.com], we'd have the perfect defense :-)

        • by radtea (464814)

          Not faster than a Phalanx with Lockheed Martin's new laser system mounted on it.

          Excellent! So we can build machines to destroy the machines we build to destroy machines!

          I'm finally starting to understand the whole "logic" of this "war" stuff: instead of using this incredible technology to create a world of plenty with nothing much worth fighting over, we will use it to destroy things, thus sapping the economic productive capacity of the world, reducing our opportunities to trade, and cause our enemies to invest in more useless, deadweight loss electro-mechanical junk to stop our dead

    • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @03:21PM (#33629280)
      Also: did you see what it needs for navigation? Bright red lights as landmarks, brightly colored hoops.

      It would need much more sophisticated navigation in order to operate outside its little custom-made "cage".
      • Its not meant to be a fully capable killbot at this stage in its life cycle I'd imagine. Give it a few years and the military will have a suitcase-carried remote piloted scout for urban areas, probably a lot quieter than this one, and larger models for ground support or duties currently filled by the A-10 or Spectre gunship. Is there a theoretical maximum size it can be? Even with some sort of sonic sensor kit I could see a few hundred of these being dropped out the back of a plane at high altitude, armed w
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by rcamans (252182)

          Actually, it does not need to be a killer. With a camera, gps, and a targeting laser, it can zoom in, acquire a target, zoom up out of range, and let a remote site fire a missile up to kill targeted item.

          Scary.

        • I've always wondered if air dropped drones with man-portable field controls would ever be practical.

          I'd see them as disposable, capable of low-level surveillance, and armed with lighter armaments (7.62 machine gun, or RPGs, or maybe a pair of dumb rockets) and have all of them packed with high explosive so they could also be flown kamikaze when their primary armaments were used up or their useful life was completed and detonated in emeny areas as a bomb.

          Control would be via field-portable briefcase type con

        • Screw the copter... thanks for introducing me to Trent. peeeow! peeeow!
        • We at Cyberdyne Systems consider this all amusing. Our early, now-obsolete flying killbots could eat these for breakfast and spit out bolts in all directions. Our patented "Headshot" tm techology supports a 100 kpm strike rate, For more information query our website, indicating your security clearance level and service rating. We are unable to respond below 3 stars, sorry.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by kmahan (80459)

        I'm ok with using it to kill clowns. That seems like a public service.

      • The bright red lights at least are warnings to other humans that the helicopter is operating. Safety first you know.
      • by tibit (1762298)

        Nope. The "bright red lights" are infrared light sources of the motion tracking system, mounted on the walls. Most likely a Vicon system with 1000Hz cameras. The IR illuminators show up on color CMOS-sensor cameras as red.

        The hoops don't have to be colored at all -- they have retro-reflective markers for the motion capture system, IIRC.

        There's nothing on the aircraft that would "see" anything, it's merely an airframe, battery, motor controller, and a radio receiver. All of the control is done elsewhere in t

    • by slick7 (1703596)

      I don't think so. That sucker is NOISY.

      Cool aerobatics though.

      First: make it work
      Second: make it quiet.
      Works for me. If these people don't have a military contract, the they're doing it wrong...or...they have the intestinal fortitude to tell them to FFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUU!

  • Way cool (Score:4, Funny)

    by Dyinobal (1427207) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @02:51PM (#33629062)
    I dunno what all the practical applications of this tech are but all I can say is, I want one.
    • by Laxori666 (748529)
      Really? What about if you put a gun on it and send a few of them into a building?
      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by mSparks43 (757109)

        still no match for airsoft i suspect:
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4HGmoxotBi8 [youtube.com]

    • Navigation (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Iamthecheese (1264298) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @03:42PM (#33629418)
      Avast ye scurvy, this vessel has almost no use! With cameras on every angle she can't go anywhere but Davy Jone's locker without a human skipper. The autonomous flyin' about may look sweet as a maiden but she can't sail her way out of a calm bay at sunset.
    • I dunno what all the practical applications of this tech are but all I can say is, I want one.

      If you can shrink the vehicle down to fly size and make it as quite as a fly with the addition of a microphone or a mic w/ a camera it certainly would give new meaning to the expression "fly on the wall". I think the flight path control and anticipating the location of a moving object real time is the impressive part more so than the vehicle.

    • If you like this, then you should have a look at the hexacopter. It is available as a kit from a company in Germany. It has on-board GPS and gyros and is controlled with a basic RC controller. The cost is about $1000. Not cheap but not outrageous either. The big one can handle a payload of up to 1 Kg! Think about the uses!! Cameras, terrifying the neighbor's dog, pizza delivery in minutes no matter what the traffic conditions are . . .,
      Link to the YouTube Video here:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch

  • Manhack (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BradleyUffner (103496) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @03:05PM (#33629164) Homepage

    Reminds me of the Manhacks from Half Life.
    http://half-life.wikia.com/wiki/Manhack [wikia.com]

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      One of the most terrifying things I've seen in a video game. Whenever I hear something that even vaguely sounds like a manhack, I instinctively spin to face it, and attempt to take out the Crowbar/GravGun.
  • So when can we mount some freaking laser on it?

    • Re: (Score:1, Funny)

      by andoman2000 (1755610)
      as soon as we can figure out how to mount the sharks to it.
    • No lasers. The value of a tool like this would be close in air support. Think cluster bombs on a smaller scale. If they could solve the buzzing sound this would make great close in surveilance drones. Perfect example: I'm a squad leader tasked with taking and holding a small town but I want to know if the enemy is already there. I take one of these guys out of my backpack and within minutes I have a complete surveilance profile of the town. Yeah I play too many first person shooters.
  • While impressive (Score:5, Informative)

    by oneofthose (1309131) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @03:18PM (#33629256) Homepage
    I think it is important to note that they use fairly sophisticated (multiple times more expensive than the drone itself) motion capture equipment to locate and control the drone.
  • Oblig Skynet (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Dan East (318230) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @03:25PM (#33629304) Homepage Journal

    Those little buggers are sure going to be hard to shoot down. Y'all better start skeet shooting right away if the human race is to have any chance!

  • So, how long will it be before we can buy remote-controlled mini Starfuries?

  • Good timing (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Lije Baley (88936) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @03:39PM (#33629392)

    If I throw a hoop up at the right time, I can get a rubber-band to fly throught it.

    • If I throw a hoop up at the right time, I can get a rubber-band to fly throught it.

      Cool, now show me how you can also get it to go through three hoops at different heights multiple times in a circular pattern.

      • by Lije Baley (88936)

        That part WAS impressive, assuming it wasn't a preprogrammed pattern. I'm just not sure what I could assume about the thrown hoop demo that would make it interesting.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          I thought the recovery after being thrown was rather impressive as well.

          I think if they have had several hoops swinging from strings at different speeds and heights as well as off set and it could somehow navigate that, I would be very impressed with is path negotiation abilities. As it is, I agree with you, it was had to tell exactly what they were demonstrating by throwing the hoop.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by arielCo (995647)
      It's not clear from the narration how much of it was pre-programmed and I'm too lazy to go read the paper, but either the guy waited for the copter to accelerate and threw the hoop in sync (pretty unlikely), or the copter timed its flight to the extrapolated motion of its "window", which is the amazing feat advertised. Hell, even if the UPenn guys cheated, they managed to make the little recover and hover after being thrown like a majorette's baton, zigzag like a hummingbird on meth, zip through hoops, do [youtube.com]
      • by tibit (1762298)

        The motion is pre-programmed in the sense that once the hoop is flying, it follows the ballistic trajectory. The control algorithm is set up to depend on that, and it choses an optimal trajectory for the quad to get through the hoop, knowing how the hoop moves in the immediate future. If you added a thruster on the hoop to make it non-ballistic, you could easily get the quad to crash. To make the quad become a universal hoop-jumper, whether the hoops move or not, the control system would need to learn how f

        • by jowifi (1320309)
          From what I could tell from the video, the quad flew a basically horizontal trajectory, and timed it's movement such that it had very little room to spare as it entered and exited the hoop. It also didn't go through at the easiest part of the hoop's trajectory (the top) Presumably, with appropriate programming, it could pass through a hoop that was swinging or moving in any other regular pattern. I bet a spinning hoop would be an interesting challenge. Another challenge would be a hoop that's moving in
    • Right, we're still a long way off from matching even a human's ability. For instance look of the sharpshooters that can shoot a .22 through a washer(the kind that go on bolts, not washing machine) that's spinning through the air. Still, this is pretty awesome and I really really want to own one.
  • OMG who wouldn't want to sit in an airconditioned trailer and control several of these guys at once. The rotor sound reminds me of the V-1 buzz bombs the Germans dropped in London between 1942-45. Except these things are infinitely more frightening.
    • by bigdaisy (30400)

      OMG ... reminds me of the V-1 buzz bombs the Germans dropped in London between 1942-45.

      Something tells me that you were not actually in London at the time.

      • You'd be right but I saw it on TV. I'm glad I was not on the recieving end of one of those. They were pretty effective at terrorizing the general population.
  • by xynopsis (224788) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @03:55PM (#33629502)

    Looks like the lightsaber training ball used by Luke

  • by kg8484 (1755554) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @03:56PM (#33629510)
    Tryna kill you in your sleep
    So y'all need to
    Hide your kids, hide your wife
    Hide your kids, hide your wife
    And hide your husband
    Cuz they killin' errbody out here
    • by Type44Q (1233630)

      Hide your kids, hide your wife

      And hide your husband

      Who do you think you're singing to, bud, bi-sexual Mormons??

  • It's very cool stuff and amazing work. Though, until I install twenty IR cameras around my room and send the information back to the controlling computer, I think I am safe for now.

  • Gizmodo. (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by kuzb (724081)

    It's trash, stop linking to it. They're just sensationalist writers and the site amounts to little more than the national enquirer of tech blogs. These morons need to be boycotted.

  • Forget the sharks (Score:1, Redundant)

    by Arancaytar (966377)

    I want lasers on these things!

  • Wife says: I think I just saw what's going to kill me someday.

    Agreed.

    I, FOR ONE, WELCOME OUR NEW QUADROTOR DRONES OVERLORDS

    and btw, those rotors sound scary, sounds like a giant swarm of angry bees
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @05:01PM (#33629924) Homepage

    Very nice. For research purposes, they're using a cheap copter and expensive fixed motion tracking gear. That saves money during debugging crashes. It doesn't have to be that way. With a slightly bigger copter they could carry around 3 axes of fibre-optic gyro, good accelerometers, and a good dynamic GPS. Expect to see that soon, with DoD funding.

    Robots are going to have faster reflexes than humans. Humans are stuck at 200ms or so, while computers get faster.

    • Any idea what exactly copters they are using then? I wouldn't mind owning one of those. I've only ever seen the tiny little ones available retail.
    • Very nice. For research purposes, they're using a cheap copter and expensive fixed motion tracking gear. That saves money during debugging crashes. It doesn't have to be that way. With a slightly bigger copter they could carry around 3 axes of fibre-optic gyro, good accelerometers, and a good dynamic GPS.

      Except that your 'slightly bigger copter' is 'not even fractionally as capable' - it's the motion capture gear (I.E. the environmental sensors) that make the quadrotor capable of performing the tricks it do

      • by Animats (122034)

        Except that your 'slightly bigger copter' is 'not even fractionally as capable'

        It exists. [youtube.com] That's what an autonomous helicopter with onboard sensors can do as of a year or two ago.

        Environment sensing is coming along. Check out Advanced Scientific Concepts' flash LIDAR. [advancedsc...ncepts.com] (Still too expensive, but it's a tenth the size of what it was five years ago. I saw the optical bench prototype in 2003, when it was the size of a desk.) Simultaneous Localization and Mapping finally works.

        All that fixed motion trac

        • Except that your 'slightly bigger copter' is 'not even fractionally as capable'

          It exists. That's what an autonomous helicopter with onboard sensors can do as of a year or two ago.

          Well, either you didn't actually watch the quadrotor video or you didn't actually watch the autonomous helicopter video. When you do so, you'll note not only the vast differences in performance between the two - you'll also note that the autonomous helicopter did no obstacle avoidance, no coordinated maneuvers with other autonomou

    • "Humans are stuck at 200ms or so, while computers get faster."

      While you are right, that 200ms is great for multipurpose multi-input multi capable Humans. While you can build specialized machines that can do one thing better than a human, machines aren't very good at multipurpose tasks.

      Making a complicated multipurpose machine that can do more than one complex task at any given time, good luck with getting it to 200ms.

  • 1:00 (Score:5, Interesting)

    by karnal (22275) on Sunday September 19, 2010 @06:12PM (#33630356)

    Did anyone else catch that at the 1 minute mark, the guy who just caught the hoop looks kinda frightened and drops the hoop, as if the Quadrotor wants to go through the hoop again?

  • It would be better if all the computation was onboard. Why even use a real quadcopter. Nothing more is being developed there.
  • How about if I just shut the freaking window?

The meta-Turing test counts a thing as intelligent if it seeks to devise and apply Turing tests to objects of its own creation. -- Lew Mammel, Jr.

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