You're absolutely right Ann: I bet a lot of engineers are going to be drooling over this robot and the opportunity to figure out how it works and to extend it. Is this designed to be a toy or is just to showcase technology that has broader potential--perhaps for some of the applications you mentioned?
This is cool, Ann. I would imagine we'll see a proliferation of this -- going downmarket for inexpensive toys for kids and going upmarket for the adult hobbyists who go out to parks on Saturday mornings with their radio-operated planes.
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.
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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.
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!
curious_device, thanks for your feedback. Good to hear from someone who's actually hacked the AR.Drone, and thanks for the confirmation of what I imagined: that it wouldn't take much to build a more powerful full-featured, multi-capable drone on top of this versatile open platform.
@naperlou: Hotrodding the AR is tricky. Each motor has it's own microcontroller and drive circuitry. Switching to larger motors means reverse engineering the controller protocol and matching the timing, which I have heard is rather tight. As the weather gets better, I'll be more inclined to mess around with things that fly.
As for general overall design style. The tri-,quad-,hexa-copters are designed in the short-flight, agile, high-energy use arena. The drones we hear the most about in the news are long distance, energy efficient, long flight-time designs (liquid fueled) which brings the design back to aeroplane shapes.
The copter-drones have been used to look inside buildings after earthquakes and other short flight applications.
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.
What an interesting observation, that US drones look like our military planes, whereas Japanese versions look like their fictional sci-fi characters. Makes total sense to me. Car styles used to reflect more of their respective cultures, too, back in the day, as did clothing, household objects and a ton of other things. Interestingly, Parrot the company is based in Paris. European design is extremely different from US design, in many different consumer products anyway as well as fashion, and some of it reminds me of modern Japanese design.
Re the cars, they also evolved from looking like houses on wheels (1910s and 1920s) to looking like boats, to airplanes, to. . . I actually forget what the analogy is for current vehicles. My observation about U.S. versus Japanese drones (military vs. manga) is original, but the car thing is an old one. You can really see how the first cars were like houses on wheels, with the high "walls" etc. Today, driver's seats are like airplance cockpits, and they'll get more so as we see the introduction of heads-up displays. That'll be a good thing, because it'll force drivers to actually look at the windshield, offering some hope that perhaps they'll look OUT it, too.
From boats to airplanes to...rocket ships? I know "rocket ships" sounds kind of 50s/60s, but that's what some of these newer car shapes make me think of. But maybe that's a continuance of the airplane cockpit look.
Actually I think they're evolving into home entertainment centers. When I was a kid and a teen, all I wanted to do was to sit in the driver's seat and pretend to be the driver. Now, I'd much rather be in the back, reclining or sleeping or watching a DVD while cocooned from any potential dangers by 25 airbags and 12 cup holders.
A slew of announcements about new materials and design concepts for transportation have come out of several trade shows focusing on plastics, aircraft interiors, heavy trucks, and automotive engineering. A few more announcements have come independent of any trade shows, maybe just because it's spring.
Samsung's Galaxy line of smartphones used to fare quite well in the repairability department, but last year's flagship S5 model took a tumble, scoring a meh-inducing 5/10. Will the newly redesigned S6 lead us back into star-studded territory, or will we sink further into the depths of a repairability black hole?
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