4/06/2012

Japan: Quadrocopters

The First Manned Quadrocopter Flight: By e-volo
With Google's announcement of Project Glass yesterday, the world got a very clear view (and well done video) on truly how fast Moore's Law is progressing.
For the past three years or so, I've been following the projects at U Penn run by Daniel Mellinger and Vijay Kumar (KMel Robotics). There work is mainly focused on quadrocopters and swarm technology. For those not familiar with quadrocopters (or quadrotors as some call them), they are wonderfully terrifying machines. Consisting, as the name implies, of four helicopter like blades evenly space on a square frame. Some opperate autonomously, others are remote control, and some (like the ones at U Penn) rely on outside sensors for positioning.
The application of these four bladed machines has proven to be near limitless: from a novel taco delivery company to filming special effects shots in Hollywood. A hobbyist can pick one up wherever model airplanes are sold, the super-tech inclined can build them from near scratch, or the less handy can even pick one up for just over a Benjamin and control it from their iOS or Android Device. But all of this is child's play compared to their potential.
If you take half the time it took to watch Kony 2012, you can see one of the co-leaders of the U Penn research give an amazing TED Talk on their work and progress thus far. (Trust me, there's good reason why the blogosphere explodes with Terminator references every time they update the public on their work).
What really makes this all come full circle for me though is Sendai. About half-way through the TED Talk, Kumar mentions how their technology could have helped search and rescue efforts like those here, on the very campus that I now sit, just over a year later.
As much as I jokingly fear the robot apocalypse or the mass vegetation of our species brought about by technology, I'm also hopeful. And I may just have a hand in it.

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Location: Tohoku University, 2丁目-1 Katahira, Aoba Ward, Sendai, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan

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