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Autonomous quadcopter uses a smartphone as its brains

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August 19, 2013

Vienna University of Technology’s 'smartphone quadcopter'

Vienna University of Technology’s 'smartphone quadcopter'

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With one possible exception, autonomous quadcopters are not something that you would expect to be inexpensive. A relatively cheap model may indeed be on its way, however. Designed by the Vienna University of Technology’s Virtual Reality Team, the tiny aircraft utilizes the processor and camera of an off-the-shelf smartphone.

The Vienna team, led by chief engineer Annette Mossel, programmed the quadcopter’s navigation software into the processor using an app.

Once in flight, the UAV uses the phone’s camera to identify QR-like coded squares placed on the floor within a room. These allow it to create a map of the room, so it can subsequently find its way around the space on its own. Ultimately, plans call for it to be able to identify actual objects naturally present in a room (such as tables and chairs) using a Kinect-style depth sensor, and create its map using those.

Annette Mossel and her team

The smartphone bits and pieces are the most expensive components of the quadcopter, with all of its parts together worth less than €1,000 (US$1,333). It is hoped that eventually, a commercial descendant of the aircraft could be used for things such as monitoring illegal forest clearing in developing nations.

Perhaps its price could be brought down further if it came without a processor of its own, and users just docked their own smartphone into it – as is already the case with some small, wheeled robots.

It can be seen in flight in the video below.

Source: Vienna University of Technology

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away.   All articles by Ben Coxworth
1 Comment

Clever thought to keep the costs down - use your own phone for the brains! I wonder if it would crash if it flies into a 'dead zone' (some houses are full of them) and loses signal?

The Skud
19th August, 2013 @ 08:11 pm PDT
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