Watch the new generation of intelligent drones learn about their surroundings






The University of Scheffield is a leading force in a the development of intelligent robots. According to a new’s release from the University’s Press Office the Department of Automatic Control and Systems Engineering (ACSE), has created software that enables the robot (propelled by a quadcopter propulsion system)  to learn about its surroundings using a forward facing camera mounted at the front of the machine.

“The robot starts with no information about its environment and the objects within it. By overlaying different frames from the camera and selecting key reference points within the scene, it builds up a 3D map of the world around it. Other sensors pick up barometric and ultrasonic data, which give the robot additional clues about its environment. All this information is fed into autopilot software to allow the robot to navigate safely, but also to learn about the objects nearby and navigate to specific items.”

“We are used to the robots of science fiction films being able to act independently, recognize objects and individuals and make decisions,” explains Professor Sandor Veres, who is leading the research. “In the real world, however, although robots can be extremely intelligent individually, their ability to co-operate and interact with each other and with humans is still very limited.

“As we develop robots for use in space or to send into nuclear environments – places where humans cannot easily go – the goal will be for them to understand their surroundings and make decisions based on that understanding.”

Another key task for these robots is to be able to interact and co-operate with each other without overloading communications networks – a vital ability in emergency situations where networks will already be overloaded.
Programming developed by the team enables the Quadcopters to work out how to ‘politely’ fly past each other without colliding. The robots start off flying at the same altitude and then need to collaborate to work out which robot would fly higher and which would fly lower so they are able to pass.


  • Reply July 3, 2014


    These things look seriously cool but they also scare me, cause it always seems to lead to one ultimate conclusion – Terminator: Rise of the Machines

  • Reply July 3, 2014


    Jeff Bezos: meet your new fleet of delivery drones

  • Reply July 3, 2014

    Maxim Heiddeger

    So these are basically high-tech pigeons to be sent into mines and other noxious environments…

  • Reply July 3, 2014


    Well, that would be one of the more benevolent applications for them…weaponizing them for “threat removal” would lie on the other end

  • Reply July 3, 2014


    Controlled and closely monitored law enforcement applications would lie somewhere in between surveillance and “threat removal”

  • Reply July 3, 2014


    Highly impressive, but all I can think of are swarms of these things raining whatever they feel like down on us

  • Reply July 3, 2014


    On a lighter note, they remind me of those radio controlled miniature helicopters you can get at Fry’s, in which case we can create competitions like flying drag racing or aerial bumper cars, etc…

  • Reply July 3, 2014


    Isn’t there a video game simulator used by the US military that utilizes miniature drones that resemble and aren’t much bigger than a large flying insect for surveillance and other “neutralization” purposes?

  • Reply July 3, 2014


    Even though are basically miniature flying saucers right now, all I can think of is when Stephen Hawking mentioned that creating AI could be the last thing the human race does

  • Reply July 3, 2014


    That interview with John Oliver on HBO and Stephen Hawking was hilarious. Well, except for when Hawking said AI robots, cyborgs or whatever would wipe us out…

  • Reply July 3, 2014


    All this AI talk is getting a little unnverving…

  • Reply July 3, 2014


    Actually, looking up at that thing while it’s looking down at me is a little unnvering…

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