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It used to be that having your own quadrotor drone was cutting edge. Now that the average Joe can pick one up at his local mall for a couple hundred bucks, you’ve got to step up your game if you don’t want to be seen as pedestrian. That’s why today’s aspiring UAV enthusiasts are working with swarms. Not just any swarms either, but swarms of nano-quadrotors. These days, budget conscious drone makers are going small to cut costs and shed ounces.

Check out this mesmerizing display of synchronized aerial acrobatics using miniature quadrotors from the folks at University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP Lab. Alex Kushleyev, Daniel Mellinger, and Vijay Kumar put the swarm of self-righting KMel nano-quadrotors through a series of tests to demonstrate software capable of performing intricate 3D formations. [via technobob]

Adam Flaherty

I make cool stuff and write about other people making cool stuff on makezine.com. If you have something you think I should see, send me a tip.


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  1. [...] http://blog.makezine.com/2012/02/01/synchronized-nano-quadrotor-swarm/   This entry was posted in Interests, Uncategorized by Philip Robinson. Bookmark the permalink. [...]

  2. AndyL says:

    This is super awesome.

    Is it a petty nitpick to say that I wish they wouldn’t say “nano” when they mean “mini”?

    1. Scott says:

      No. Not petty at all. “Nano” has become the latest grossly misused tech term. “Digital” is another one that I can think of off the top of my head right now. (Remember all the “digital” headphones being sold right after the introduction of the mp3 player?)

  3. Ashai Rey says:

    Real life space invaders

    1. heh, that was my first thought…Live Action Space Invaders. :)

    2. jasontromm says:

      Just don’t fly this swarm anywhere near a bunch of well-armed rednecks. They might mistake it for a flock of pigeons (or aliens from outer space) and shoot them down.

  4. Only one thing could make this more awesome.

    They need to play “Ride of the Valkyries” in the background.

  5. CoptorFan says:

    Not to take anything away from how amazingly cool this is, but I wonder if those 2 red and yellow boxes on the rail around the room are cameras? If so are they using the cameras to manage the swarm? I mean are the individual copters aware of their position relative to their neighbors and independently maintain their position in the swarm? Or is the swarm being visually monitored by a separate computer which is then transmitting directional control to each unit? I suspect the latter. What they have done is amazing either way, but that means you couldn’t use this technology to have the swarm go scout a building full of bad guys. Unless of course you sneaked in there and mounted a bunch of cameras first. :)

    1. JoelB says:

      I think you’re missing the point. This looks to be more of a hardware demonstration to show how the quadrotor design is capable of being directed to fly in such precision that several can fly in such a tight formation. I believe the related videos about the larger quadrotors mentions the cameras and motion capture-like system used for directing each quadrotor. I believe the videos show the 3 silver spheres needed to determine the 3D lcoation and orientation of each individual unit. Like any new technology, steps are needed. It looks like they’re getting the physical hardware for precise control down pretty well. I’d bet this team is years away from being able to scout any random building for bad guys, but even that is years of ahead of anyone else I’ve seen.

      I just want to know, where can I get one of these awesome little quadrotors!

  6. Tom says:

    This is awesome. But now they need to tell me how to build one :)

  7. Gerald Hill says:

    Can I purchase one of these flying robots on line anywhere, or from a retail store?

    1. When I was in Singapore, I found something a bit bigger than that –not much bigger. Cost about S$400 (or less). Surely you can get something like those anywhere else.
      There’s ARdrone which you control from an iDevice, openWii copter which utilize a wii controller, XAircraft, Mikrokopter, etc etc.
      Mind you, no swarm capability :-)

  8. Tiffani lath rope says:

    Wow people need not let pedestrians have stuff like this we are all gonna pay for this that’s crazy

  9. [...] have taken several quadrotors and turned them into robotic musicians. We’ve seen the great swarming abilities of these machines recently, but now using various instruments and noisemakers, these aerial drones [...]

  10. [...] have taken several quadrotors and turned them into robotic musicians. We’ve seen the great swarming abilities of these machines recently, but now using various instruments and noisemakers, these aerial drones [...]

  11. bob karschnia says:

    Does anyone know where you can get this version of nano (mini) quad rotors? Expensive ones are everywhere but these ultra cheep ones are difficult to fine

  12. [...] covered a few fascinating research projects in the past, like the synchronized swarm from Kmel Robotics and UPenn’s GRASP Lab. Although the fine folks in Pennsylvania have [...]

  13. [...] covered a few “wow” projects in the past, like the synchronized swarm from Kmel Robotics and UPenn’s GRASP Lab. While the fine folks in Pennsylvania have focused on [...]

  14. [...] covered a few “wow” projects in the past, like the synchronized swarm from Kmel Robotics and UPenn’s GRASP Lab. While the fine folks in Pennsylvania have focused on [...]

  15. [...] landings or creating platforms for crane use. The GRASP Lab at UPenn, which is famous for their use of quadrotors, has taken the lead on research for the [...]

  16. [...] landings or creating platforms for crane use. The GRASP Lab at UPenn, which is famous for their use of quadrotors, has taken the lead on research for the [...]