Autonomous Quadrotors Dance Together

Posted Jun 07, 2010 12:03 AM

You can do some pretty incredible things with quadrotors in a precision motion capture environment. Angela Schöllig, Federico Augugliaro, and Raffaello D'Andrea from the Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control at ETH Zürich in Switzerland have taught a pair of robot helicopters to dance in sync with a techno remix of the theme from Pirates of the Caribbean. Why? Well, why not? I imagine, though, that this demonstration is part of a larger research path towards enabling cooperative (or swarm, if you will) behaviors.

The environment that these quadrotors are dancing in is a 10m square box with netting on the sides and padding at the bottom, which allows for crazy moves with minimal risk to either the robots or nearby humans. At the top of the box are eight high speed cameras that are able to provide localization information with millimeter level of accuracy at a frequency of 200hz or greater. This means that you're not likely to witness moves like this outside of a controlled and besensored space... At least, not until vision sensors and inertial measurement units get accurate enough, small enough, and cheap enough to put on the copters themselves.

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