First Mind-Controlled Drone Race Takes Robotics Technology To Another Level

Posted: Apr 25 2016, 9:40pm CDT | by , Updated: Apr 26 2016, 12:12am CDT, in News | Latest Science News


First Mind-Controlled Drone Race Takes Robotics Technology to Another Level
Credit: Univesity of Florida

World's first mind controlled drone race held in Florida last week where participants used their thoughts to drive and direct flying robots

Several flying robots were whizzing around in an indoor basketball court at Florida University last week. So many people were also seen sitting in front of screens with innovative devices on their heads

That was all part of a competition held on April 22 in University of Florida which they called the world’s first brain-controlled drone race. 

The brain-controlled drone race is first of its kind where flying robots were remotely controlled by operator’s thoughts and it utilized brain-computer interface (BCI) technology to connect brain to a drone.

A total of 16 pilots participated in the competition and used brainwaves to drive drones through a 10-yard platform. Just like normal competition, the drone took off with the announcer’s holler and raced towards the finish line.

So how exactly the technology works?

Pilots need to wear black headsets which are actually BCI devices. The device measures electrical signals from the brain and directs the drones. Pilots stare at their computer screen as drones are ready to take off. When they think about going forward, the drones slowly move ahead. To move it from side to side, they think right or left.

“We learn to navigate the drone based on brain patterns for specific things you are thinking about.” Professor Juan Gilbert from University of Florida said in a statement.

The BCI technology has been around for years and thoughts or brainwaves have already been utilized for helping paralyzed people to move their hands or feet. But this is the first time when computer-brain interface technology has been used for controlling unmanned aerial vehicles in a competition. 

“With events like this, we’re popularizing the use of BCI instead of being stuck in the research lab,” said Chris Crawford, a student in human-centered computing. “BCI was a technology that was geared specifically for medical purposes and in order to expand this to the general public, we actually have to embrace these consumer brand devices and push them to the limit.

University of Florida is aiming to organize such kind of races in future too and is planning to invite other universities to push the interest even further.

“We’re starting a new trend in society; there will be future brain drone competitions,” said Gilbert. “We are starting with a simple little race right now – who knows where this will go?”

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Hira Bashir covers daily affairs around the world.




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