Next-generation drones will go where you point your smartphone and never crash, say ex-Google X engineers
Drones are a lot of fun, but making them to exactly what you want them to isn’t always easy, and a fair number of them are damaged or destroyed in crashes. Skydio, a startup formed by ex-MIT and Google X engineers, is hoping to change that by turning your smartphone into a ‘magic wand’ controller, reports TechCrunch.
To demo its auto-pilot system, it’s built a drone “magic wand” that lets you direct a drone by simply pointing your phone where you want it go. That means you don’t need the traditional, clunky dual joystick drone controller.
Today’s drones use cameras to allow you to shoot photos and video, and feed the video back to your phone or controller. What Skydio does is use that same video feed to construct a 3D map of the surroundings and feed it to the drone’s flight controller, so it can automatically avoid obstacles.
The team demonstrated the technology by flying a radio-controlled aircraft at speed through an underground parking garage, and a drone through a cluttered office–seen in the above video.
Some of today’s drones have ‘follow me’ functions aimed at those into action sports like mountain biking and skiing, but Skydio believes that using 3D mapping will allow a drone to perform this kind of function far more intelligently, using its awareness of the terrain to ensure the best possible coverage of your heroic endeavors.
The team plans to partner with drone manufacturers, and recently raised $3M in seed capital to create the custom hardware to pitch it to drone makers.
Google is taking a different approach with its Project Tango 3D interior mapping technology, which uses a grid of infra-red emitters to map its surroundings.