MIT developed an algorithm that will make drones more agile at high speeds

mit drone algorithm high speed dji mavic pro 06
We don’t think we are going out on a limb when we say that autonomous drones are going to be big. But, like the archetypal protagonist at the start of any hero’s quest, they need to learn a few things first.

One such challenge is how to fly quickly while managing to dodge obstacles. The reason this is hard for drones is because their cameras can only process images up to a certain speed since they have to do it frame by frame. Anything faster than 30 mph causes a bit of a headache.

That is where a new research project from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology comes into play. It builds on a technology called the Dynamic Vision Sensor (DVS), invented by researchers in Zurich. The DVS continuously visualizes scenes by looking for changes in brightness. This is similar to the way that the human brain senses visual information and means that it can work at short, microsecond intervals much faster than regular cameras.

The problem is the amount of processing time it requires due to the huge mass of data. By the time an obstacle has been detected and a control outputted, a drone would have already crashed.

MIT’s work represents a step forward. It is an algorithm that is able to isolate very specific changes in brightness, which has the effect of reducing complex scenes to their most essential elements.

“The DVS has had a lot of empirical successes,” lead author Prince Singh, a graduate student in MIT’s Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics, told Digital Trends. “However, there [hasn’t previously been] a concrete algorithm that can process the sensor’s ambiguous data to, for instance, control a dynamic system such as a drone. My work addresses the control of any system that has a linearized representation by making sense of the DVS’s ambiguous data. This work unifies the empirical successes observed, and most importantly, one doesn’t need knowledge of the problem’s geometry, as was the case for works until now.”

Singh is currently presenting the work at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers American Control Conference in Seattle. Next up, the plan is to publish a paper on the work. Hopefully, it won’t be too long after that before drones — and other autonomous robots — can take advantage of this high-speed breakthrough.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: 1-handed drone control, a pot that stirs itself

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

Stronger than steel, thinner than paper, graphene could be the future of tech

Since its discovery, graphene has set the research world on fire. What exactly is it, though, and what could it mean for the future of tech? Here's everything you need to know about what could be the next supermaterial to take center stage.
Product Review

Airselfie 2 may as well be a GoPro stapled to a drunk hummingbird

On paper, the Airselfie 2 is marketed as flying photographer that fits in your pocket and snaps selfies from the sky. Unfortunately it’s more like a HandiCam controlled by a swarm of intoxicated bumblebees
Home Theater

The best movies on Netflix in November, from 'The Witch’ to ‘Dracula’

Save yourself from hours wasted scrolling through Netflix's massive library by checking out our picks for the streamer's best movies available right now, whether you're into explosive action, witty humor, or anything else.
Emerging Tech

These Alexa-stuffed retro phones don’t listen until you take them off the hook

Looking for an Amazon Echo with a cool vintage touch? Los Angeles-based Grain Design is taking old, non-working antique phones and transforming them into amazing Alexa smart speakers.
Smart Home

This alarm clock uses targeted light and sound to wake you, but not your partner

The Wake v2 isn't like your typical bedside alarm. Instead, it wakes you by shining a soft light directly into your face, thereby not disturbing the person sharing a bed with you. Pretty smart, huh?
Emerging Tech

Believe it or not, this fire-proof exoskeleton isn’t designed for space marines

A company called Levitate Technologies has developed a fire-resistant upper body exoskeleton that’s capable of lowering exertion levels by up to 80 percent when you carry out manual work.
Emerging Tech

Intel’s new ‘neural network on a stick’ aims to unchain A.I. from the internet

To kick off its first developer conference in Beijing, Intel unveiled the second generation of its Neural Compute Stick -- a device that promises to democratize the development of computer vision A.I. applications.
Emerging Tech

Frogs regrow ‘paddle-like’ limbs when placed in a bioreactor

Frogs have partially regrown amputated limbs thanks to a bioreactor at Tufts University. By jump-starting tissue repair, the bioreactor helped the amphibians regenerate a bigger, more complete appendages than they usually do.
Emerging Tech

Prepare for liftoff: Here are all the important upcoming SpaceX rocket launches

From ISS resupply missions to a host of communication and scientific satellite launches, SpaceX has a busy year ahead. Here's a rundown of some of the company's most important missions slated for the next year.
Emerging Tech

China says it has developed a quantum radar that can see stealth aircraft

Chinese defense giant China Electronics Technology Group Corporation claims that it has developed a quantum radar that's able to detect even the stealthiest of stealth aircraft. Here's how it works.
Emerging Tech

Glass orb packs all the constellations in the night sky into fancy desk ornament

Ever wanted to know more about the star constellations? A stunning new Kickstarter campaign, taking the form of a fancy desk ornament that re-creates the night sky in a glass orb, aims to help.
Emerging Tech

The best drone photos from around the world

Most of today's drones come equipped with high-end cameras, which are quickly revolutionizing the world of aerial photography as we know it. Here are some of the best drone photos from around the world.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX makes rocketry look easy, sticks yet another Falcon 9 landing

SpaceX is due to perform its latest Falcon 9 rocket launch and landing on November 15 from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. Here's how you can watch the proceedings live.