Watch Tiny Drones Cooperate to Play Catch

By Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg

These days flying quadrocopters basically guarantee viral video success; they've already played the James Bond theme and performed in a dazzling light show. Recently, researchers at the Flying Machine Arena at the Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology have programmed three quadrocopters to throw and catch a ball with a net. As you can see about one minute into the video below, the drones use iterative learning to get better (note the sad "wah wah wah" sound effect when they fail). At the end of the video, they throw a GoPro video camera around so you can experience the nauseating perspective of the ball. Robin Ritz, Mark W. Müller, Markus Hehn, and Raffaello D'Andrea collaborated on the project.

With 1,000 cubic meters of space and a padded floor, the Flying Machine Arena seems like a kind of preschool romper room for drones

The Flying Machine Arena offers a safe, controlled sandbox environment allowing the testing and validation of mobile robots. Thanks to its large size, it allows the testing of fast-paced motions, be it on the ground or in the air. The Flying Machine Arena offers ideal conditions to test novel concepts thanks to a high-precision localization system, high-performance radio links, easy-to-use software structure, and safety nets enclosing the space.

A key to the quadrocopters' coordinated orientation in space is a motion-capture system of eight cameras that "provide millimeter-accuracy localization." So for now, it seems like the little swarm won't be escaping to come after you (yet). 

For more videos from the Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control, visit the YouTube channel

Via It's Okay to Be Smart

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/video/archive/2012/10/watch-tiny-drones-cooperate-to-play-catch/263758/