Video: Autonomous robot plane flies indoors with greatest of ease

Remember the chase scene in Evil Dead 2, where the titular dead hunted Bruce Campbell all through the inside of the cabin? Well MIT's Robust Robotics Lab has successfully reenacted that scene using a camera mounted on a small robotic plane that is able to autonomously fly indoors and maneuver around obstacles.

Aside from reproducing classic scenes from Sam Raimi films (as seen in the video below at the 2:30 mark), there are numerous potential applications for this impressive pilot-less technology that can fly indoors through tight obstacles.

We've seen plenty of examples of autonomous flying vehicles in the past, but they've mostly involved slower, more precise helicopters. Whereas fixed-wing aircrafts present "a more complicated and interesting problem, but also that it has a much longer flight time," according to Nick Roy, the head of MIT's robust robotics group.

Starting from scratch, the team built their own airplane with short, broad wings that allow it to fly at relatively slow speeds, make tight turns and carry all the electronics necessary for self-guided navigation.

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The plane utilizes a bevy of internal toys to determine its place and orientation, including accelerators, gyroscopes and a laser rangefinder that allow it to "see" what's in front of it. Interestingly, the team decided not to include any GPS instrumentation as an added challenge.The plane's navigation system is powered by an Intel Atom processor, the same consumer grade processor that may be inside your smartphone or tablet right now.

In its current form, the plane is still provided with a digital map of it's surroundings, but it has to independently determine its own place within the environment using on-board instrumentation. According to team leaders, the next step for the project will be to equip the plane to independently map its environment (excuse the coming pun) on the fly. Once engineers get over that hurdle, they will have truly created an autonomous flying robot that can be used in military, rescue, or surveying operations.

Or to hunt down Bruce Campbell.


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