Autonomous Nano Quadrotors Fly in Combat Formation

You know that something is fishy in the US when you see an army of flying robots in attack formations going through the frame of a door.

These quadrotors were developed by KMel Robotics at The University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP Lab, but given the way the developers decided to demonstrate the capabilities of these robots, I cannot think of an inoffensive purpose. In the past, I’ve seen mini flying robots capable of going through frames (think of circus animals jumping through circles of fire), but the frames did not have the shape of a door and the robots certainly were not flying in night attack formation.

Professor Daniel Lee demonstrates in the following video some of the features of quadrotors. First of all, he mentions that the robots are capable of agile flight, but it is what comes next that amazes us the most.  He throws one of them into the air and the tiny quadrotor manages to gain control and reestablish its flight position within a second. Next, formation flight is demonstrated, with several variations. Trajectory planning is used for transitioning from one formation to the other in 3D. At some point, 20 of them are shown flying in various formations. Add that to the fact that these robots are autonomous and you have anything but a toy meant for children. The “funny” part comes when we are told that the team is able of flying in environments with obstacles. It is rather strange how a door can perfectly exemplify such an environment. At the end of the demonstration, we are shown 16 quadrotors flying in the figure 8 formation, where the shape of the figure is continuously traced by quadrotors.

The comments that the above video got on YouTube are either very hilarious or meant to strike fear into us. Some examples include:

  • Skynet goes live in 3, 2, 1…
  • I wish people would stop building things designed to be as smart or smarter than humans. Have they not seen EVERY APOCALYPSE FILM EVER?!
  • Put a laser on the quadrotor to be used against cockroaches in the house, that would make my day!

Of course, the project is also praised by many YouTube users, and some of them even mention that these quadrotors have military application. Well… Obviously!

If they (and by they I mean the US army, who might contract these) decide to increase the number of the quadrotors to a few thousands and sharpen a bit the blades of these tiny robots, they get an army of assassins that could make foreign country invasions an action with no human loss, whatsoever. I guess the quadrotors could also be used as spy drones, but that would probably be a secondary purpose for them.

If you liked this post, please check this wooden quadrocopter and the AR Drone.