Like the Japanese flying sphere, the Parrot has gyro sensors that enable its impressive takeoff and landing abilities. When I wrote the Japanese sphere story, I couldn't find out whether the sphere's gyros were MEMS-based -- nor could anyone else, since it's a defense project -- but I wouldn't be surprised. The Parrot uses a three-axis accelerometer, a two-axis gyrometer, and a single-axis yaw precision gyrometer. I'd bet the Japanese sphere has an accelerometer, in addition to its gyros. It may also have an ultrasound altimeter, like the Parrot, which has a range of six feet.
The Parrot's front camera is a low-resolution VGA with a 93-degree wide-angle diagonal lens and 3D detection capabilities. The bottom camera has a 64-degree diagonal lens with a frame speed of 60fps, which is twice that of a typical machine vision inspection application. Operators can switch between the two for video feedback on the iPod Touch or iPhone control screen using a button in the application.
Looking at this from the industrial design and cultural perspectives, it's interesting to observe the differences between U.S. and Japanese drones, both in the military and in games for consumer as described in this story. In the U.S., we design our mini flying stuff to essentially look like little versions of our fighter aircraft.
On the other hand, the Japanese designs seem to have evolved from Anime, in that they look somewhere on the spectrum from Mothra to whatever those other dinosaur-like horror movie characters were called. You can also see that this flying game comes from the same world in which humanoid-like robots seem completely normal. I guess what I'm saying is the cultural landscape in which engineers and designers work has a big influence on what the end products look like.
Having spent a sizable amount of time hacking the AR.Drone 1.0, I can say that Parrot could easily make it a serious flying Linux machine by adding a GPS option and add flexible vertically polarized Wifi antennas for added range. Instead of concentrating on their gimmicky virtual reality games (virtual reality for a physical drone - meh), they should enable "hot rodding" with higher-powered motor/rotors, pluggable peripherals, larger frames and batteries.
The AR.Drone is a very advanced, and pretty open architecture, little drone that can be much more with very little engineering effort!
OK, thought it must be the Samarai from your description. But this is so simple kids could have designed it; it's much less complex than the AR.Drone or the Japanese flying sphere, or even other stuff the military has done along these lines. Maybe the military needs to start hiring teenagers for their design team...
That's a great video, Ann. Yes, the Samarai is the one I had in mind. Your point about the consumer sector is well taken, however. Often the consumer sector finds ways to accomplish similar things on a shoestring budget.
Al, the 12-minute flying time limit of the batteries is one of the various characteristics that screams "toy" about this design. But battery use and type, like other performance specs, can be altered by changes in both hardware and software.
I think JPW's nano-drone concept is interesting, although I would not have thought of using them as a device for snake seek-and-destroy missions. Sounds like you've got quite a problem over there! Hmmm, maybe I could use them out here for skunks, which can be quite a pest this time of year.
Yes, that's the sort of military drone app I had in mind when I saw the AR.Drone game platform (I've been calling it the Parrot because that's the maker's name and it kind of looks like one to me). Thanks for the info about Lockheed-Martin. I checked it out and found this reference (with video) to the Samarai, a small, spinning surveillance drone with a 360-degree view:
Is this the one you had in mind? It looks highly targeted to a surveillance app. But I'd be surprised if military developers aren't paying attention to potential inspiration in the consumer sector, such as the AR.Drone.
I personally see an opportunity to put nano-drones to use in the Florida everglades. I envision swarms of nano-drones mounted with one sensor device capable of seeking out Burmese Pythons and one poison dart capable of delivering said Pythons a lethal dose.
Sounds Matrixy, but desperate situations call for outside of the box sci-fi thinking.
Otherwise, surprised that no one has started a snake canning/packing company to sell to Asia and other markets where snake meat is popular.
Ann, This is a very cool design and represents an interesting piece of technology. The 12 minute limitation on flying time does represent a bit of a downer, even though you can see why it's true. I assume the batteries are easily accessible and can be replaced to keep the fun times rolling.
Beth, the Parrot appears to be designed as a (very sophisticated) toy, although I doubt the gamers would call it that. Most of the videos show teens using it, but as Rob points out, many adults play with these, too. The elements of the technology itself have been showcased with way better hardware elsewhere, including the Japanese flying sphere, or various military drone prototypes. OTOH, because it's open platform, users are encouraged to design and build their own. It's me looking at it with my would-be engineer's mentality and industrial machine vision reporting experience thinking: How is this put together? What would happen if I changed this and tweaked that? that makes me think about other applications like military and industrial MV. I assume engineers will be, too.
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