Reuters and Mail Online announced, Nov. 4, 2015, that Andrew Barry, a PhD. student of MIT, developed a set of algorithms that work in conjunction with cameras mounted at the furthermost points on a drone, also called UAVs, (Unmanned Arial Vehicles), that direct the UAV through terribly challenging flying environments at speeds up to 30 mph, (approx. 50 kilometers per hour).
What this means is that drones can now fly very low to the ground and fly THROUGH trees and, likely, dense collections of trees. No longer do drones have to avoid those chaotic-looking masses of branches and leaves by flying above or around them where they can be easily detected or noticed by an observer. With this new algorithm, drones can do a much better job of avoiding detection by flying low and through such obstacles as trees.
Let me label these as “Intelligent Flyers”. They can weave and dodge, climb and duck as they speed through trees. It brings to mind an image of a human boxer dodging incoming punches while in a ring. Now a mechanical device can do that.
Until this genius came along, drones depended on light sensing systems that worked similar to a radar. These systems were cumbersome, awkward and costly. With the “Intelligent Flyer” system developed by Barry, a new approach to avoiding buildings and other obstacles will usher in a new era of drone capability.
As computational power increases, and camera resolution gets better and lighter, we can expect to see many more advancements in drone technology, thanks to Barry and others like him who are challenging traditional techniques and technology.
There may indeed come a day when you need not worry about some drone slamming into an office tower 30 stories above you and crashing down on your head. On the other hand, it may also accelerate the progress made towards miniaturization and the use of artificial intelligence for near-microscopic drones which can avoid the swipe of your hand when you think you are being buzzed by a mosquito.