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ACM TechNews

Drones That Smash Into Obstacles Can Be a Good and ­seful Thing

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The microdrones can bump into each other and continue flying without a problem.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania are working on small aerial drones that purposefully collide with obstacles and then move on to perform various functions.

In one scenario, drones would make a vocal signal when they hit something, and keeping track of the location of such utterances could enable a map of where the obstacles are to be plotted. This mapping could be reliably and cost-effectively executed with a swarm of inexpensive drones equipped with basic sensors.

In another scenario, having drones smash headlong into an obstacle so they can change direction could be a faster alternative than having them reverse direction by decelerating to a complete stop and then re-accelerating.

Meanwhile, the University of Pennsylvania's Yash Mulgaonkar suggests drones capable of sustaining collisions "can fly in dark, unstructured environments and deploy small payloads by colliding." The researchers are working on onboard localization and visual odometry to make such drones more practical.

From IEEE Spectrum
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