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This drone will make sure you’re never lost again

Fri, 09/27/2013 - 12:10pm
Kasey Panetta, Managing Editor

You know that moment when you’re walking around say, a college campus, and suddenly realize you’re horribly lost and all the buildings of ivy-covered bricks look exactly the same? Yeah, me neither, but apparently it happens a lot at MIT because they’ve developed a drone to make sure you’re always on the right path.

Skycall—unrelated to Skyfall—is a drone designed to help navigate complex environments. The entire process works based on app. If the user finds herself lost on campus, she presses the “Call” button, which summons a quadcopter to the GPS location given by the phone. The GPS coordinates are relayed via a server to the drone. Upon arrival, the drone greets the lost person, who then enters the location she is looking for. In this case, it is a building/room code for a location on campus. After entering the code, the wanderer presses “Go” and the drone begins moving at a “walking pace.” The designers say the benefit of this is the user can look at the scenery instead of being focused only on a map. In fact, the drone will provide interesting facts about the surrounding area. If the visitor sees something interesting, she can “Pause” and “Resume” when ready to continue. If she is walking slower than the “walking pace” the drone will detect you have fallen behind, it will pause until the phone GPS signal shows she has caught up. Finally, the drone will arrive at your final destination before returning to its home dock.

The quadcopter uses autopilot, GPS and several sonar sensors to fly autonomously. It’s only a prototype, and not really useful for widespread usage, but it’s a pretty cool idea.

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