Saturday, November 6, 2010

Artificial brain becomes ace pilot

The helicopter in the video below may look dangerously out of control. But it is being piloted by a piece of software able to perform the "chaos" manoeuvre shown for indefinite periods.

Researchers in the Stanford University AI Lab have created software able to learn complex aerobatics from human pilots.

Using the data from a suite of sensors (accelerometers, gyroscopes and magnetometers) on a helicopter piloted by an expert human, the software works out how to pull off the same moves. This is not simply a case of mimicking the commands sent from the controller, the software must learn to deal with the effects of varying wind conditions and other complications.

Smart as it is, the Stanford software doesn't get it first time. Watch this video (wmv format) to see a helicopter improve it's "tic-toc" manoeuvre.

Small autonomous aircraft are learning aerobatics elsewhere, too. A team at the Georgia Institute of Technology has created helicopters that can land on slopes steeper than any human pilot can handle, and MIT researchers have built planes that are able to perform vertical, perching, landings. Video of both those craft in action are below.

Tom Simonite, online technology editor

Labels: aerospace, vehicles

Posted by Tom at 5:50 PM

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