Mini helicopters fly autonomously

April 23, 2012 at 7:38 PM   |   0 comments

ZURICH, Switzerland, April 23 (UPI) -- Swiss researchers say they've helped develop a type of flying robot that can be navigated using only on-board cameras and a miniature computer.

Researchers at ETH Zurich say the micro helicopters, developed as part of a European project called sFly, require neither GPS nor remote control, but can operate autonomously.

Current flying robots are large and heavy and when used in open fields they often require GPS or a trained pilot, they said. Compared with GPS-based flying robots, the new micro helicopters can work both in the open air and in enclosed spaces, and can be navigated deep inside buildings where GPS often fails, an ETH Zurich release said Monday.

With a diameter of 20 inches, they are designed to maneuver in tight or even enclosed spaces, and to detect and fly around any obstacle.

Possible uses could include protection or rescue missions, or flying over disaster areas and giving a picture of the situation from the air or locating victims.

"This is a research project that above all aims to explore the technical possibilities. However, we can well imagine that the flying robots developed in the sFly project could be an important aid for rescue teams in disaster relief missions in the not too distant future," Roland Siegwart, head of the Laboratory for Autonomous Systems at ETH Zurich.

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