Flying Robots Designed to Save the Planet

DISCLAIMER: I have no problem with robots taking over the world.  As a matter of fact, if robots cleaned up the mess human beings have made of the planet, I’d lobby to get them hefty salaries, full health benefits and tickets to the Oscars.

Far from the flying robots we envisioned in our youth (like in the cult classic Johnny Sokko and his Flying Robot), the robots featured in the video below playing the James Bond Theme are modeled after insects. They are quadrotors to be exact . And while these quadrotors aren’t exactly ready to take over the planet on a grand scale, orchestrating a live performance of the James Bond Theme flawlessly is a start.

Designed and developed by a team of engineers headed by Daniel Mellinger, Alex Kushleyev and Vijay Kumar at the renowned Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science GRASP Lab, the flying robots made their premier at TED2012 in Long Beach a few days ago and was an instant hit. In his TEDTalk, Kumar explains how these flying bots can help alleviate some of humanity’s biggest problems.

The engineers explain the flying bot, musical performance in the video involving 9 robots playing 6 different instruments:

Flying robot quadrotors perform the James Bond Theme by playing various instruments including the keyboard, drums and maracas, a cymbal, and the debut of an adapted guitar built from a couch frame. The quadrotors play this “couch guitar” by flying over guitar strings stretched across a couch frame; plucking the strings with a stiff wire attached to the base of the quadrotor. A special microphone attached to the frame records the notes made by the “couch guitar”.

These flying quadrotors are completely autonomous, meaning humans are not controlling them; rather they are controlled by a computer programed with instructions to play the instruments.

The team continues to explore the ways in which these quadrotors can be best put to use in the near future (ie, first responders in a natural disaster emergency).

For more information on the team behind this:

Vijay Kumar’s TED2012 Flying Robots presentation:

Daniel Mellinger and Alex Kushleyev’s robotics company:

Johnny Sokko and His Flying Robot

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