This freaky footage of a gang of tiny flying robots looks like it's straight out of a sci-fi flick. But it's 100 percent real.
On Wednesday, robotics researchers at University of Pennsylvania released a video of what they call "nano quadrotors" - tiny flying robots that engage in complex social movements like swarming and pattern formation.
The video shows what look like mini helicopters flying with remarkable agility and precision. They can do flips, avoid obstacles, and shift direction effortlessly, all on command. Toss one up in the air, and it finds its balance and and flies back to the hand that launched it. Best of all, when in the company of other drones, they gather to fly in a figure-8 formation.
The machines come from UPenn's General Robotics, Automation, Sensing, and Perception (GRASP) lab. Scientists there hope that swarms of tiny bots like these can replace human search and surveillance teams, like those used after a disaster. But future technology will need to improve our ability to coordinate large groups of inexpensive robots, instead of programming and configuring each one manually.
The researchers express their hopes for the future of this technology in a written statement:
“Can large numbers of autonomously functioning vehicles be reliably deployed in the form of a ‘swarm’ to carry out a prescribed mission and to respond as a group to high-level management commands? Can such a group successfully function in a potentially hostile environment, without a designated leader, with limited communications between its members, and/or with different and potentially dynamically changing “roles” for its members?”
Let's just hope these little guys don't get angry.