Nov 11 2012

Encouraging Developments In Quadcopters (w. Lots Of Video)


As I was doing my daily random browsing of interesting links, I came across a very interesting article by Mark Bruce, one of my regular readers and commenters, which had a huge list of links related to quadcopters and other “drones” that covered a very broad range of advances over the last couple of years. I was pleasantly surprised by several that I found to be very encouraging towards the development of many of the predictions I have made about quadcopters and drones in the past.

The first is this video showing the test flight of a “drone” capable of carrying the full weight of a man run by electric motors:

While this is very primitive, it does show that drones can be built at nearly any scale. Anyone thinking that size is an obstacle to using drones for such things as freight moving or heavy construction should realize that it is not an issue. In addition to autonomous drones being used to carry materials, this also illustrates another possibility, the long sought after “flying car”. A properly programmed drone could be made that could revolutionize the Taxi industry as easily as it could the delivery business. Even fixed wing planes are proving the usefulness of “Drone Delivery”:

Yes, that is a small plane flying to a programmed location and dropping a payload. Now, imagine how much more versatile a quadrotor would be in the same application. Imagine a large Drone delivering a tank to a remote location.  Oh, and if you think something like the load swinging around under a Drone might be a problem, think again:

Nor has the weapon’s platform concept gone unnoticed:

Yes, that’s right. That is the COD: Black Ops 2 Quadrotor… in real life, filmed PRIOR to the game’s release.  While some people claim the video is a fake, the technical ability to build one exists.

Then of course we have such useful, non-military applications, such as the ability to track and follow an individual:

Okay, so it could be used in a military capacity, but the ability of the drone to follow a specific individual has enormous potential in every day life as well, some of which I pointed out in my fictional “Interview” article. Imagine a device that can follow you around automatically. Now, think Big Brother, Amazing Race, and Survivor, without the presence of cameramen. Imagine the next Big Movie created by a director able to record dozens of angles simultaneously. Imagine news reporters followed around by an automated camera.

Autodesk certainly hasn’t missed the possibilities. They used a quad to capture still images for their 123D Catch software, which then rendered it into a 3D model:

As one poster astutely commented, “this is 2 steps away from “videogame maps made dirt cheap”.”

Now, take that same software and add in autonomous mapping abilities like this:

And then think about the mapping drones used in “Prometheus”… oh wait, they already did:


Very interesting stuff, no? And if you think that only universities, corporations and the military could play around with things like this, this video should burst that bubble:

So, tell me, do any of you still think that quadcopter drones won’t have a very large impact on the future? From Remote Telepresence Units to Delivery Drones to Construction Drones to Making the Mirrorworld, and even potential uses as a “Personal Assistant”, it would seem to me that things are proceeding exactly as I predicted.

And thank you to Mark Bruce for the links!


Sep 05 2012

The RTU (Remote Telepresence Unit) Is Born


Considering the sheer number of times I get told I’m insane by people who refuse to believe the possibilities I discuss for the various technologies I write about, it’s hard to resist the occasional “I told you so.”

But… I told you so.

Back in September of 2010, I wrote an article titled “Fly Your POV Around with Your Own personal Quadcopter.” In that article, I discussed using such quadcopters as “Remote Telepresence Units” by connecting a camera and microphone to one, connecting it to a “smartphone” or other computing device, and enabling someone to use it as a “surrogate.”  I even discussed connecting an Emotiv Epoc style BCI to the device to allow control of the RTU by simply thinking about it.

And, like so many other devices I discuss, it was dismissed.  People claimed it was not feasible; batteries were too weak; copters were too expensive; quadcopters were just toys anyway, etc. And yet here we are a year and a half later, and we have such milestones as K Eric Drexler asking “Where are the Parrots?” in a blog discussing the recent Japanese reactor disaster in which he points out that the “Parrot AR” drone, a commercially available quadcopter controlled by a smartphone application, could have been used to inspect the reactors for a fraction of the cost of the two track-based drones used, and could have done the job in a fraction of the time. In fact, with the cost of such drones being less than $300 USD each, they could have easily been considered “expendable,” and sent into areas deemed “too risky” for the larger and far more expensive drones used. In addition, you have Drones playing the James Bond Theme, showing off sophisticated swarming skills, and building a six foot  tower. All of this shows the validity of the ideas for the uses one could put an RTU to in the original article I wrote, but all that progress is still not the RTU I described, but autonomous drones carrying out preprogrammed actions.

However… This is:

By the way, that’s a Parrot AR drone. A laptop, and an Emotiv Epoc BCI device. It’s built exactly from the components I described in the original article. All it would need now is a decent VR headset, like the Oculus Rift and a basic RTU is born. Give it the ability to connect to the internet wirelessly, and the RTU drone could be controlled from anywhere in the world.

So, yeah, I told you so. The RTU is born. Now get ready, because in a few years, they will start to become as commonplace as smartphones, and our world will never be the same.