Chinese researchers develop FlyingBuddy2, a mind-controlled drone

Flying Buddy 2 drone

We can control television with our minds, so why not control a drone? In a new video, researchers at Zhejian University show off the technology that allows users to control a quadcopter, called “FlyingBuddy2,” with their mind using a headset that tracks for EEG signals.

The Chinese scientists developed the technology and drone to offer disabled people an extra “eye” in the sky. The technology uses an electroencephalogram signal (EEG) headset that is commercially available and manufactured by Australia-based Emotiv. The device, coined the EEG neuroheadset, is worn over a user’s head. Using non-invasive measures, it tracks the electrical signals firing in the brain. There are 16 tendril-like sensors that enable the owner to program and track for up to 12 different movements. The headset can reportedly also detect emotions.

To demonstrate the FlyingBuddy2’s abilities, a wheelchair-bound person wearing the Emotiv headset accomplished feats that would otherwise be impossible for disabled individuals, including viewing a flower located in an unreachable location. The drone was outfitted with a camera that constantly streams a life feed onto a laptop for its user’s viewing purposes. Bluetooth connects the EEG headset to a laptop, which then connects to the drone via Wi-Fi.

According to the video, a user can control the drone’s movements in three dimensional spaces — but the controls are a bit odd. Thinking “left hard” will signal the craft to lift off from the ground. To fly the drone downward, a user has to clench his or her teeth. Thinking about flying the craft “right” will fly the craft forward. To rotate the drone counter clockwise, the user has to think about turning “left.” To control the ascent of the drone, the users has to think about “pushing” the craft. A user can also capture pictures with the drone’s camera just by blinking.

Flying the drone, as you’ve noticed already, requires a series of mind bending commands that goes against the user’s habitual inclinations. But as with mastering anything, maneuvering the craft takes practice.

In addition to offering users a second set of eyes, the video claims that controlling the drone gives users makes the mind more nimble and precise.

Mind controlled devices are a reality and may one day rid of remote controls altogether. The FlyingBuddy2, set to be presented at the Ubiquitous Computing Conference in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, is just one step closer to an improvement in the well being of disabled users.

If you’re looking to get your hands on one, the device can be purchased for $500.

Check out the video of the drone below.