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Summary:

MIT grad students studying Robust Robotics designed a plane that can operate in tight spots — avoiding pillars and low ceilings — without a GPS or outside help. The plane uses an on-board laser range finder and inertial sensors to fly right.

airplane

Those crazy kids in MIT’s Robust Robotics program have really done something. They designed a robotic airplane that can maneuver in tight spaces, avoiding obstacles, without using a GPS. To accomplish this feat of “autonomous plane navigation in confined spaces,” the team came up with a system to tell the plane where it is in real time using a laser range-finder and on-board sensors. The plane, run by an Intel Atom processor, manages to maneuver in the low-ceiling, multi-pillared garage at MIT’s Stata Center without a scratch.

Real-world applications could include military use — most of the drones used by the U.S. now are remotely-piloted not autonomous. Civilian applications might include aerial filming for land surveys, environmental monitoring and meteorological data collection.

Update: (More on the flying robot from MIT News here.)

Check out the cool video.

Video courtesy of MIT’s news office.

  1. I suspect there’s a reason most of the drones used by the U.S. are remotely-piloted and not autonomous…the military wants people, observing the ground through cameras on the drone, to decide where the planes will go when they’re flying over hostile territory.

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  2. The US Navy flew drones many , many years ago…..Google DASH…drone anti-submarine helicopter….primitive by today’s standards, but nonetheless a drone.

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    1. What’s different is this is fixed wing aircraft. If you look at the video or the linked MIT news story there’s information on rotor drones — and yes they’ve been around while.

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