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MIT's Flyfire To Paint Images In the Sky Using Micro-Helicopters 65

@engadget mentions that a new project dubbed "Flyfire" at MIT is looking to launch a fleet of LED-equipped micro-helicopters and coordinate them in synchrony to create massive floating images. "By using LED-equipped drones the project pledges to build free-floating 3D displays, endowing them with enough smarts and positional awareness to organize themselves into an airborne canvas. It sounds deliciously exciting and challenging."
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MIT's Flyfire To Paint Images In the Sky Using Micro-Helicopters

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  • Batman? (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Maybe this will save on energy costs of using super bright spotlights as Batman beacons.
  • by Anonymous Coward
  • by kaizendojo ( 956951 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:00PM (#31202310)
    Sounds scary to me... Sounds more like we'll be followed by 'intelligent billboards'!
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by jhoegl ( 638955 )
      Nothin' a bb gun wont cure.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Warhawke ( 1312723 )
      Brings new meaning to Ray Bradbury's "The Murderer":

      Then, of course, the telephone's such a _convenient_ thing; it just sits there and _demands_ you call someone who doesn't want to be called. Friends were always calling, calling, calling me. Hell, I hadn't any time of my own. When it wasn't the telephone it was the television, the radio, the phonograph. When it wasn't the television or radio or the phonograph it was motion pictures at the corner theater, motion pictures projected, with commercials on low-lying cumulus clouds. It doesn't rain rain any more, it rains soapsuds.

    • by s2theg ( 1185203 )
      Imagine being on a date and getting "5 ways to impress her" ads.
    • I think we've seen the future of Tool's [] live shows.
    • by tuxgeek ( 872962 )

      Yep, my thoughts exactly

      Q. What purpose would this technology serve?
      A. Joe Camel floating high above in 3D over our schools recruiting new customers to the ranks.

      They my even be able to personalize this one day Minority Report fashion
      " Joe slashdot geek, would you like a virtual prostitute today? Or maybe rent one of our new sexbots"

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Spazntwich ( 208070 )

      I'm from Tennessee, and people around here enjoy many amateur engineering projects involving projectiles. You may have heard of something called a "potato gun."

      I have a feeling free-floating billboards would spark a resurgence in their popularity.

    • great use case for increasing the power of these: []
    • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 )

      Don't worry. It won't work.

      These things need power to keep flying. Currently the best batteries in terms of power/weight ratio are li-po. Li-po batters give you about 10 minutes flying time with a small chopper similar in size and weight to these things. Of course these will actually draw more power than that for the bright LEDs and more complex sensor/telemetry system.

      Oh, and li-po batteries have some nasty problems. If you overcharge or try to draw too much power from them too quickly they explode. The pl

  • and they start following me, my theories will be vindicated!
  • Great for sports! (Score:3, Interesting)

    by musicalmicah ( 1532521 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:19PM (#31202492)
    Looks like it would be amazing for sports stadiums. It could even deliver crowd-hyping mascots to various sections of the stadium. I wonder how the power source and recharging issue would be handled, though.
    • buzz kill. pay no attention to the rack sized power supply behind the curtain.

    • by sarlos ( 903082 )
      I say power them wirelessly -- turn the goal posts into Tesla coils and voila!
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ae1294 ( 1547521 )

        turn the goal posts into Tesla coils and voila!

        Yes this sounds like a wonderful way to reduce our idiot problem here in the states.

    • I have a theory: landing pads that charge by induction! No need to have a human plug the thing in. No need to land so precisely that electrical contact is made. With enough charging stations, you could rotate units in and out much like the players on the field. (or bench. You get the idea.)
    • by Ihmhi ( 1206036 )

      I see Macy's (or rather, the company(s) that do their fourth of july stuff) as being a huge customer and early adopter.

  • by RJFerret ( 1279530 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:30PM (#31202630) Homepage

    Why reinvent the wheel? Trying to put sheep out of business? []


  • by northernfrights ( 1653323 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:35PM (#31202708)
    "It sounds deliciously exciting and challenging"

    Yeah, because a 300ft coke ad hovering in the sky above my house is going to be exhilarating...
    • Especially when the swarm notices that you've learned to ignore it so it swoops down to 10 feet above your head.

      • The hot exhaust-laden air has made me rather parched. What beverage might I consume that would relieve such thirst? I do believe I've seen the name of one such product very recently? Battery acid? No. Horse urine? Nope. Oh, yeah, an only slightly more revolting beverage - printed on the billboard hovering 10 feet above my head - Coca Cola.

        Nah, I think I'll just shoot down the leader and all the others will follow. Then I'll go have a glass of water and retain the integrity of my skeletal structure.

      • Buy our Ad Blocking mini attack helicopter now!

  • by recharged95 ( 782975 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @03:58PM (#31203010) Journal
    For the 1st physical prototype, they display a waterfall.

    Just have them fly 50feet up, and let them malfunction (as expected in the first few prototypes) and fall and call it a success! Now that was easy.
  • I'm just thinking they will get problems when trying to fly the helicopters in the airstream from others above them, won't they?
    • by gd2shoe ( 747932 )

      It's not just the downdraft below them. Think about it. You have a fluid (air) That is being sucked downward creating a pressure difference. High pressure below, and low pressure above. This will be offset by a flow of air around the blades and upward. A diagram would look a lot like a torus [].

      There will be a downdraft that they will need to account for, but I don't think it will go very far. There will also be an updraft to the sides that they will need to adjust for. In other words, they can't get t

  • Wind anyone? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SlashDev ( 627697 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @04:21PM (#31203382) Homepage
    I wonder how long before a gust of wind will disrupt the image...
  • In Raymond Khoury's book The Sign some evil doers did almost the exact thing using smart nano particles or something. They used it to scare the hell out of the bible thumpers so they could get them all convinced it was the second coming. Read the book if you want to know how it turns out...

  • by VorpalRodent ( 964940 ) on Friday February 19, 2010 @04:28PM (#31203512)
    This will be utterly destroyed by an angry mob the first time it gets hacked to display Goatse. Imagine not just disgusting a single person, but an entire football stadium.
  • If you've ever played with one of these micro-flyers, you've noticed that the battery life is quite short --- so if they succeed, they won't succeed for long.
  • As a private pilot, I look forward to the day when someone plows through a cloud of these things at 125 knots and tests just how many of them it takes to bring down a Cessna - or a 747.
  • Makes me think it'll have the same destiny as that TV show marketing gimmick where they setup little LED robots giving the finger that scared the bejeezus out of Boston and other cities because you could see the D batteries in it.

  • This swarm technology is pretty cool, and that aspect of the project has merit. However the idea of using this as a mobile aerial display seems like super over kill. If each unit is a pixel or a few pixels, you need hundreds or thousands flying all together, and able to hold station in the wind, imagine recovering them all for charging, loss from crashes...etc.

    If you want a mobile aerial display it would be much cheaper and easier to do something like what was used in the opening of the Winter Olympics. Lar

  • To spend lots of time talking about how cool their idea is, without actually doing it.

  • FUCK airborne advertisements.

    And while we're on the subject, fuck public billboard ads, fuck the impulse isle when I just want to buy some milk for my son at the grocery store, and fuck every other invasive, "can't look away" advertising schemes ever invented. I'm so sick of being plundered by the commercial industry.

    Is it too much to ask to look up, knowing you'll see the sky and not a Nike commercial? Jesus Christ.

    • I just want to buy some milk for my son at the grocery store

      Get a cow? Although, it looks like you already tried to apt-get one...

  • Pretty much all there is to say.

    Science-Fiction writers used to go on about how we'd have giant holographs... turns out you can just use physically floating objects and paint images far more easily. Whoa.

  • Finally we have a solution to the issue of light pollution inhibiting our view of the cosmos. Now we can simulate the starry night sky using tiny floating LED-clad robots.

"I prefer the blunted cudgels of the followers of the Serpent God." -- Sean Doran the Younger