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MIT Researchers Develop Autonomous Indoor Robocopter

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the if-it-drops-water-balloons-i'll-take-it dept.

Robotics 69

An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at MIT's Robust Robotics Group have developed a robotic helicopter capable of autonomously flying inside buildings or other GPS-denied environments. It has an on-board camera and a laser scanner that maps the local environment. The video talks about search-and-rescue and civil engineering applications, but it also brings somewhat scary reminders of Minority Report to my head. How long till I see one of these chasing me down a dark alley? The team's website has more videos showing earlier stages of the project."

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Citizen (2, Insightful)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784157)

Article just has some videos, but here's [gamona.de] a few pictures [nocookie.net] of it [gamespot.com] .

And I suggest a good behaviour when they fly in - otherwise these machines will come in [visualwalkthroughs.com] .

Re:Citizen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29784365)

Screen doors will be outlawed.

What MIT researchers have really invented (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29784775)

...is an autonomous publicity machine. God some of their stuff is just so embarrassing. It seems like the people who really can engineering good robots, like Raibert, just leave and form their own company.

Re:What MIT researchers have really invented (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29794117)

They've invented one more step toward the Terminator world. This chopper doesn't even need to carry weapons; it can decapitate...

Game, set, match! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29789387)

When tennis rackets are outlawed, only outlaws will have tennis rackets.

'Cause you just know it would be satisfying to smack one of these ten-thousand-dollar UAVs down to the floor and stomp it, good.

Gentoo?? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29784169)

I use Gentoo; how does this affect me?

Re:Gentoo?? (1)

nizo (81281) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784353)

Once Microsoft starts developing and deploying these, you'll learn to run and hide when you hear helicopter sounds.

Not chasing me down a dark alley (1)

GrahamCox (741991) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784187)

Baseball Bat 1, Helicopter 0.

Re:Not chasing me down a dark alley (2, Interesting)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784259)

Good luck with that [youtube.com] .

Re:Not chasing me down a dark alley (1)

nizo (81281) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784347)

How good is your bat at protecting you from a stun gun or bullets being administered by an object that is hovering ten feet away?

Re:Not chasing me down a dark alley (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784575)

Assuming rubber bullets, I expect the answer depends on how well one wields the bat.

Re:Not chasing me down a dark alley (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29785419)

Right. Because the current drones in use by the military use rubber missiles, so it's safe to assume if this was further developed by the government, it would be similarly harmless.

Re:Not chasing me down a dark alley (1)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 4 years ago | (#29785141)

Baseball Bat 1, Helicopter 0.

Chucking some sand at it would probably work better; nothing like sand in the air intake to choke an engine. Also carrying a small bag of sand in your pocket is less conspicuous than carrying a baseball bat all day. While it might work at more than baseball bat range, it would still be limited to a couple of meters.

A longer range method would be using one of those nice green laser pointers to saturate its visual detectors so it crashes into a wall. The higher powered green lasers from http://www.wickedlasers.com/ [wickedlasers.com] might even do permanent damage to the detectors. Hell, everyone can carry a laser pointer and claim it's for their job. I carry a green one :)

Helicopter with laser beams. (0, Offtopic)

NoYob (1630681) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784249)

That's nice and everything but, if the guys at MIT are so frickin smart, why can't they put lasers on the frickin sharks!

Now, adding GPS to the sharks IS a great idea, though!

That will solve the wind issue! (1)

poofmeisterp (650750) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784257)

Oh, so that's why my brother is having trouble getting his remote outdoor helicopter to properly maintain position for over a few seconds.

If he would only do it indoors in a large structure! ...with multiple props.. /sarcasm ;)

I love the length of outdoor shots. Looks pretty par to me.

Re:That will solve the wind issue! (1)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784869)

Consider the focus is ground-level surveillance in "buildings or other GPS-denied areas" (think caves in Afghanistan), I don't think wind is going to be as much of an issue as you believe it to be. Also, if you understood anything about the greater inherent stability of the quad-rotor design (let alone the fact that it is being combined with gyroscopic stabilization) you would understand very quickly how incredibly ignorant your post is.

Besides the fact that the primary coolness of this particular bot is not it's flying ability (I know of dozens of hobbyist RC models that have better flight capabilities), but rather it's ability to complete all the tasks autonomously. Y'know, like a robot.

Re:That will solve the wind issue! (1)

poofmeisterp (650750) | more than 4 years ago | (#29785293)

You know you're making an obvious statement to someone who understands this, hence the sarcasm.

The outdoor comment at the end was the only one I had with a non-humorous intent. Par.

Dark alley (1)

TimeElf1 (781120) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784269)

Well, if we could just get the MIT team to put some blades on them we can make them into the Manhacks from Half-Life 2. Forget your baseball bat just bring a crowbar.

Re:Dark alley (4, Funny)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784415)

Did you RTFA? The navigation problem was greatly simplified by sharpening the blades, eliminating the need to go around walls.

Man-Hack Sim Mk. I (1)

hodagacz (948570) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784291)

All that's needed is the saw blades.

Re:Man-Hack Sim Mk. I (1)

One_Minute_Too_Late (1226718) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784343)

All that's needed is the saw blades.

I've always found that a crowbar works well against these kind of machines. Failing that, I'd grab a gravity gun (better known as the zero-point energy manipulator) from the local scrapyard.

Re:Man-Hack Sim Mk. I (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29784701)

This would be fantastic for real life infantry if it can scan and maneuver quickly enough and then relay to the soldier's (preferably) hands-free display. Anything that gives an infantryman
another chance at life (more or less) will always go down well.

Tennis racket (1)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784309)

> How long till I see one of these chasing me down a dark alley?

Carry a tennis racket. Or just throw a rock.

Re:Tennis racket (2, Insightful)

nizo (81281) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784367)

...dark alley...

Don't forget your night vision goggles, unless you are good at hitting things with your eyes closed.

Re:Tennis racket (1)

wjh31 (1372867) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784425)

ears still work in the dark

Re:Tennis racket (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784451)

Yeah it's a great idea to try to listen more closely where the flying devices with saw blades are coming from.

Re:Tennis racket (1)

jcoy42 (412359) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784865)

what?

Or you could take a deep intrest in politics (1)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784429)

And follow what the people you elect have done and then support and advocate those that have the true intrests of the people at heart rather then just voting for the guy giving you 300 dollars or makes you feel good for a bit like Santa Claus but has no real plan.

But nah, lets fear tech, that is so much cooler then just making sure those who would abuse power, don't get into power.

Re:Or you could take a deep intrest in politics (2, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#29785047)

> And follow what the people you elect have done and then support and advocate
> those that have the true intrests of the people at heart rather then just
> voting for the guy giving you 300 dollars or makes you feel good for a bit
> like Santa Claus but has no real plan.

Yeah, yeah, but I'm still going to carry a tennis racket. Just in case.

Re:Tennis racket (1)

mikael (484) | more than 4 years ago | (#29785839)

Close your eyes ... and use the force, or just aim for the sound of the gearbox.

Re:Tennis racket (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29790193)

...dark alley...

Don't forget your night vision goggles, unless you are good at hitting things with your eyes closed.

Just use the force...

roomba! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29784325)

Very cool! Now they can make a roomba that can clean my stairs!

I'd give it a year (2, Insightful)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784349)

before they strap a Google camera to the things and start taking pictures of every corner of every building that doesn't have:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

in it's robot.txt file.

Re:I'd give it a year (5, Funny)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784389)

I knew the

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

that is tattooed on my ass would come handy.

Re:I'd give it a year (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29789501)

I knew the

User-agent: *
Disallow: /

that is tattooed on my ass would come handy.

But have you changed your name to robot.txt?

Two biggest problems (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29784385)

Noise and power source are massive problems that aren't likely to go away. The real problem with all non airfoil type hovering vehicles is always going to be a power source dense enough. There are actually a number of ways to propel them if energy wasn't an issue. The robotics are impressive but it'll always be a boat in the basement until these issues are addressed. They used gas as fuel obviously for this test but you have the noise factor. Electric would be quieter but then you have battery weight. Even with Moeller's Skycar I think his 400 mile estimates are very unrealistic. Vertical take offs are always going to take a lot of power as does hovering. Cool stuff but I'll be far more impressed when some one can keep a device this size flying for 6 or 8 hours. 5 minutes with electric and 15 minutes on gas is probably the norm right now so there's a long way to go before we have to worry about Minority Report.

Re:Two biggest problems (2, Funny)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784599)

Dammit Fusion Industries! Where's my Mr. Fusion Nano?

Re:Two biggest problems (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29784841)

What makes you think they used gas? I watched the video and it looked and sounded electric to me.

It's really slow though. It requires lots of vertical movement so the laser can scan plus it's just plain slow at moving around. I await the day when these things can quickly move through an environment.

I really, really need to go work on one of these projects. It seems the software developers for most robotics projects are not very skilled at all.

Re:Two biggest problems (1)

Laser Dan (707106) | more than 4 years ago | (#29789673)

Actually it is electrically powered, and if it is similar to other quadrotors that size, can fly for around 20 mins carrying all it's gear.

Vehicles like this are waiting for a more dense energy source, with a longer flight time they will really start to become useful.

Selling Chanel different style BLaze woman Shoes (-1, Offtopic)

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Re:Selling Chanel different style BLaze woman Shoe (1)

cheftw (996831) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784493)

^

Not only can they fly, but they can do e-commerce!

Nightmare (2, Insightful)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784533)

"scary reminders of minority report"? What about scary reminder of fast rotating blades at neck altitude? People are in indoors too, and laser mapping or not, inertia and shit happens.

Re:Nightmare (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 4 years ago | (#29788017)

They're made from Kevlar and are all foldy. It's like sticking your hand into a desk fan which is to say will be shocking but not really painful.

Re:Nightmare (1)

gmuslera (3436) | more than 4 years ago | (#29790491)

There are some cover there, is not so trivial to get hit with the rotor even if they were blades. Still, i was talking about nightmares, and a scary one could be being in a narrow corridor with a scaled down version of real helicopter coming to you

Re:Nightmare (1)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 4 years ago | (#29788841)

Fast rotating blades at neck altitude sounds less like Minority Report than The Twilight Zone Movie to me.

Re:Nightmare (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29804257)

I'm more afraid of the flying sharks.
If they have laser mapping, then those lasers are gonna have to be attached to something!

Oh god D: (1)

shish (588640) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784535)

I am imagining a future where parts are very cheap, and then someone crosses these with these [wired.com] D:

How till you see one of these chasing you? (1)

pedantic bore (740196) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784577)

Well, since they are awfully quiet....

I wouldn't turn around right now, if I were you...

How long? (2, Funny)

YourExperiment (1081089) | more than 4 years ago | (#29784651)

How long till I see one of these chasing me down a dark alley?

That depends on what you were planning, citizen.

Re:How long? (1)

PingPongBoy (303994) | more than 4 years ago | (#29785795)

How long till I see one of these chasing me down a dark alley?

Chases are overrated. I've only seen 4 police chases out of the thousands of times I've ever seen police cars. The police don't even buy the highest powered cars any more.

Ergo, people can be caught without chases, or those who run aren't worth chasing.

Sneakier surveillance technology could cause a major upheaval. Wall mounted cameras are still on a human scale, but if the fly on the wall is actually a spy robot, one can imagine how the stock market would react. A wall-colored insect could be flown into a CEO's office to get the latest insider scoop and then flown out. Talk about scanning for bugging devices.

Hiding information may become economically infeasible, and new discoveries may become open sourced rapidly. Indeed, the sheer volume of information may become the new method of hiding, although that tends to make important information marginalized (i.e., not worth hiding), as there would be a lot more important information, and always some that is more important.

anyone remember defense play? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29784981)

Forgot about Minority Report. Does anyone remember Defense Play?

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094981/

How many other cheesy 80's movies have come to pass? When's my Johnny 5 come alive?

Seems mostly like a vision solution (2, Interesting)

Corporate T00l (244210) | more than 4 years ago | (#29785015)

This is interesting, although by using a quad-rotor helicopter, they seem to have mostly solved computer vision problem rather than a control system problem

Quad rotor and coaxial helicopters are very stable and have gotten pretty popular as entry-level helicopters because they are so easy to fly. The downside is that they don't really have the efficiency characteristics to fly outdoors like collective-pitch (e.g. like real full-size) helicopters.

Since the focus of the challenge was to fly indoors, using a quad-rotor is the natural choice. I'd like to have understood better how other teams failed and what kind of helicopters they used.

Collective-pitch helicopters, on the other hand, are extremely difficult to fly. Until the Stanford Autonomous Helicopter (http://heli.stanford.edu/), I believe no autonomous control system has been able to successfully fly one, even for very simple maneuvers.

Re:Seems mostly like a vision solution (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29785931)

Actually, Yamaha had a fully autonomous solution for helicopter flight back in 1988. It later became the Yamaha R-MAX. And I've been working with autonomous helicopters since 2005.

Re:Seems mostly like a vision solution (1)

CompMD (522020) | more than 4 years ago | (#29795791)

Like the AC who also responded, I've done a lot of work with UAVs. I did some work on the Yamaha R-MAX. It can takeoff and land fully autonomously. Northrop also has the MQ-8B Fire Scout which is capable of fully autonomous flight. Then you have the Boeing Little Bird, the unmanned demonstrator for that was a full size conventional helicopter...and on and on...this isn't new. You can build a fully autonomous Raptor 50 helicopter for less than $10,000.

Would you kindly.... (1)

British (51765) | more than 4 years ago | (#29785103)

Please tell me it uses a small wooden crate for tomatoes for an ammo box.

Available now for only $24.95. Really. (1)

Animats (122034) | more than 4 years ago | (#29785153)

That's almost as good as the Bladestar [wowwee.com] , available now for only $24.95 [amazon.com] Yes, an indoor helicopter with radio control and collision avoidance for $24.95. WowWee manages to produce incredible capabilities at very low price points.

The MIT thing is neat, but it's mostly possible because IMU units and laser scanners are finally small enough for this.

The time-of-flight laser scanner thing has been frustrating. That's what you want in a robot; they're just too expensive for volume or hobbyist use. 3D LIDAR scanners have been around since the 1980s. For a long time, the SICK LMS devices, which worked well but were both bulky and expensive, ($9000), dominated the field. The DARPA Grand Challenge resulted in the Velodyne scanner, which was 3D (the SICK units are line scanners), but that cost $50,000 - $100,000.

There's no fundamental reason why the things should cost that much, except that they are produced in small volumes. Back in 2004, I dragged a venture capitalist down to Advanced Scientific Concepts, which has a $100,000 flash laser rangefinder with a custom imaging chip. That thing should cost under $1000 in quantity, and eventually it should cost like a webcam. But ASC was selling only to the military, and they weren't thinking in terms of a volume product. It was too early, though; no volume market was on the horizon.

When robots at the Roomba level get laser rangefinding and a decent IMU, they'll be able to navigate without getting lost or stuck. An automatic vacuum with enough smarts to do the job right could take over much commercial floor care.

this is goatSex (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29785193)

about bylaws as it is licensed hooby. It was all

Useless (1)

bistromath007 (1253428) | more than 4 years ago | (#29785263)

Why make a robocopter if it is not also a dildocopter?

Pizza delivery (2, Funny)

Tibia1 (1615959) | more than 4 years ago | (#29785379)

Did no one else see this vital application use?

Put this in a movie (1)

Dachannien (617929) | more than 4 years ago | (#29785833)

For the past 20 years or so, anytime you needed a robocopter chasing someone down a dark alley, computer graphics was the answer. But how cool would it be to do this as a practical effect with no wires involved? Of course, people are so used to CG effects that they'd probably think the real thing looked fake.

P.S. Michael Bay can shove this robocopter up his ass. And I seriously hope he does.

Re:Put this in a movie (1)

westlake (615356) | more than 4 years ago | (#29786181)

But how cool would it be to do this as a practical effect with no wires involved?

You won't be doing this with an autonomous mini-copter - unless the actors are CGI or matted in later.

Apart from the risk of injuries or property damage, the director needs control of the shot.

The automated tracking that looks good in a studio test may not work so well on location.

Pixar can spend four years solving problems like this within the wholly artificial and controlled environment of an animated film.
 

technology rocks (1)

Deanalator (806515) | more than 4 years ago | (#29786205)

"How long till I see one of these chasing me down a dark alley?"

Don't worry, I'm sure some day some brilliant underground scientist will re-discover the baseball bat.

Silly (2, Interesting)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 4 years ago | (#29787467)

Why a helicopter when you could use a blimp type device? Million times easier and more stable. And less fragile or dangerous.

Re:Silly (2, Insightful)

John Hasler (414242) | more than 4 years ago | (#29788639)

> Million times easier and more stable. And less fragile or dangerous.

And large. And slow.

Re:Silly (1)

Laser Dan (707106) | more than 4 years ago | (#29789693)

Why a helicopter when you could use a blimp type device? Million times easier and more stable. And less fragile or dangerous.

Any sort of wind an you're off for a little detour...

Even air conditioning can make things difficult.

I can't believe nobody has mentioned... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29794755)

Mikrocopter [mikrokopter.de]
or UAVP [uavp.ch]

Both stuffed full of open source goodness and well within the abilities of most Slashdot tinkerers to build.

I picture someone saying... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29796173)

Use your crowbar and smash those drones, Gorden!!

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