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Rob Spiegel
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Who needs a pilot
Rob Spiegel   9/14/2012 1:43:32 PM
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Pretty cool flight, Elizabeth. It will be interesting to see if they can take the next step and let the plane map out its own environment.

Beth Stackpole
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Re: Who needs a pilot
Beth Stackpole   9/14/2012 2:48:23 PM
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Definitely an interesting use of sensors, but not sure how they can translate the technology from flying what's more akin to a toy plane to something more substantial.

TJ McDermott
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Re: Who needs a pilot
TJ McDermott   9/16/2012 11:34:53 PM
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Beth, this is one big step towards autonomous cars.  Having everything done on-board instead of being relayed from a much more powerful computer is amazing.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Who needs a pilot
Rob Spiegel   9/17/2012 10:39:51 AM
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That's probably a big leap, Beth, just as it would be a big leap to transfer the technology to an environment that is not pre-programmed for the flying craft. Yet I could see this technology eventually getting incorporated into drones.

Charles Murray
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Re: Who needs a pilot
Charles Murray   9/14/2012 6:30:05 PM
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To do this without GPS is amazing. I'm still not sure, though, how it determines when it has reached its destination. Does the user have to program in a 2D map? 

Scott Orlosky
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Re: Who needs a pilot
Scott Orlosky   9/16/2012 9:45:02 AM
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Wow, I have to say this is a pretty amazing video to watch, especially knowing more about how they did it.  I would think this could be very useful in collision avoidance of all types.  Maybe it could even apply to conventional automobiles and race cars (though I suspect the potential for a crash is part of the thrill of racing).

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Who needs a pilot
Rob Spiegel   9/17/2012 12:53:30 PM
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It effectively has a 3D map, Chuck. It knows where all of the beams are and it navigates both vertically and horizontally. 

Charles Murray
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Re: Who needs a pilot
Charles Murray   9/17/2012 5:31:27 PM
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Rob: So by combining the 3D map with dead reckoning calculations, it can eliminate the need for a GPS connection?

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Who needs a pilot
Rob Spiegel   9/17/2012 5:54:22 PM
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Yes, Chuck, this thing is flying without GPS. It has mapped the space it flies in. What I don't get is how the plane knows where it is within its map. 

Charles Murray
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Re: Who needs a pilot
Charles Murray   9/17/2012 6:37:46 PM
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If it uses gyroscopes or three-axis accelerometers, that would answer our question, Rob.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Who needs a pilot
Rob Spiegel   9/18/2012 12:03:56 PM
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So, with those devices, Chuck, would it know where it is in relation to floor, ceiling and pillars? 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Who needs a pilot
Ann R. Thryft   9/18/2012 1:12:06 PM
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Robots that make maps--and that update them continuously for navigation purposes, which it's not clear that this one does--are a topic we've covered before: http://www.designnews.com/document.asp?doc_id=240288

That one is also MIT, and also from a group in its CSAIL lab.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Who needs a pilot
Rob Spiegel   9/18/2012 1:50:32 PM
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Thanks for the link, Ann. I find it amusing that this robot uses technology from the Xbox 360. Computer games have led a number of technology developments. In the automation and control world, they're using game technology for training and simulation. The miltary is also using game technology for training.

Jack Rupert, PE
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Re: Who needs a pilot
Jack Rupert, PE   9/18/2012 2:13:01 PM
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I've noticed that too, Rob.  It seems that a lot of mainstream developments come out of either the gaming industry or another "nameless" industry used for the distributioin of electronic media.

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Who needs a pilot
Rob Spiegel   9/18/2012 2:30:10 PM
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That "nameless" industry has created very significant changes, particularly in the publishing industry, Jack. And more disruption to come: TV, retail, you name it.

Jack Rupert, PE
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Re: Who needs a pilot
Jack Rupert, PE   9/18/2012 11:14:09 AM
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It would be interesting to see how the algorithm would respond to a change in the environment - such as if a new structure were added (or somebody's head for that matter).  Would it know enough to just avoid the obstacle or would it think it is in another location of the map?

Rob Spiegel
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Re: Who needs a pilot
Rob Spiegel   9/18/2012 12:10:35 PM
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Good question, Jack. The new object might need to be programmed in. On their next stage, this team is going to try to get the plane to map its own environment on the run. I would think that would require GPS. But maybe not.

NadineJ
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I like pilots
NadineJ   9/16/2012 10:43:29 AM
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This looks cool.  I love the idea of GPS-free flighs with the saftey that GPS offers.  I think it would be great as an aid for pilots too.  This would be good for humanitarian drops in remote areas that are isolated or cut off in natural disasters. 

I can't wait to see the evolution of this.  There are lots of other moving objects in the sky. Anything that can avoid or deter birds would be fantastic for the aviation industry.

CLMcDade
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Gold
unfamiliar terrain
CLMcDade   9/17/2012 11:15:15 AM
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Not having to pre-program the environment into the computer seems to be a common theme in many of the comments and on first brush, it seems like not attaining it would be, in a way, a failure or limitation of the ultimate design of this system.

However, how many humans would be able to fly a plane through an unfamiliar, enclosed environment without stalling or colliding with objects?  Switching to a helicopter type device would help us, because it could come to a complete stop relatively quickly without stalling.  But if we were in a fixed-wing aircraft which had to maintain forward motion at a minimum airspeed, with no do-overs or a re-set button, I think few people would be able to accomplish it.

If you play video games, think of getting to a new level, or running a new race course, in a game where you HAVE to keep moving to keep from getting killed, passed or disabled.  It generally takes many, many tries before a gamer can familiarize his or herself with the environment and subsequently negotiate it at full speed successfully.

While the goal may be the ideal, it is asking a lot of the onboard computer of a  fixed winged aircraft to do something that our human brains and senses cannot do.  Again, in a rotary type device, it is entirely feasible. 

bobjengr
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AUTONOMOUS CARS
bobjengr   9/22/2012 1:40:12 PM
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TJ--My thoughts exactly.  I don't know what changes might need to be made to adapt the systems to this use but I do think that could be accomplished with some effort now that the work that has been done already.  I do see the great advantage for in-flight systems where GPS is not available or has been disabled.   This is great work by MIT and contributing agencies of our government.  

 



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