University of Zurich researchers have demonstrated an autonomous drone that can detect and avoid fast-moving objects, thanks to event cameras equipped with smart pixels that work independently of each other. In other words, the pixels that detect no changes remain silent, while the ones that see a change in light intensity immediately transmit information, thus only a tiny fraction of the all pixels of the image will need to be processed by the onboard computer to greatly speed up computation speed.
The next goal is to test the system on an even more agile quadrotor drone. However, the ultimate milestone is to build autonomous drones that navigate as well as human pilots. These drones could replace humans in search and rescue applications for use on missions that fall beyond line of sight or beyond the reach of the remote control.
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For search and rescue applications, such as after an earthquake, time is very critical, so we need drones that can navigate as fast as possible in order to accomplish more within their limited battery life,” said Davide Scaramuzza, who leads the Robotics and Perception Group at the University of Zurich as well as the NCCR Robotics Search and Rescue Grand Challenge.