Will drones that fly and drive guide how we travel in future?


We are on the brink of a future where depending upon drones for tasks like delivery of goods, surveillance, inspection, construction site surveying, etc., would become a routine. But even as researchers and developers keep coming up with newer and newer applications for drones, there are some challenges that have always plagued them: A highly agile, airborne drone has limited battery life, while an energy-efficient ground-based robot is bound by spatial constraints.

That’s exactly what researchers at an AI lab at Massachusetts Institute of Technology strived to overcome by developing a robot that can both fly and drive. And then, they went a step ahead to show that these robots – which are more autonomous than ever – can maneuver around our skies, take stock of no-fly zones and navigate themselves to their designated parking spots and landing pads following a systematic, most efficiently planned path.

You know what this means, right? The algorithm which has been developed for these quadcopters is essentially taking us one step closer to the future of transportation, aka flying cars! According to the lead author of the research project, Brandon Araki, “The ability to both fly and drive is useful in environments with a lot of barriers, since you can fly over ground obstacles and drive under overhead obstacles. Normal drones can’t maneuver on the ground at all. A drone with wheels is much more mobile while having only a slight reduction in flying time.”

Of course, there are a lot of challenges that still need to be overcome before we reach the stage of scaling up this technology to the point where humans can be transported from one point to another, and the researchers also accept that. But as CSAIL Director Daniela Rus puts it, “We are inspired by the potential of a future in which flying cars could offer us fast, traffic-free transportation.”

Meanwhile, check out these beauties in action:

Also read: NASA develops technology to help drones crash-land safely during emergencies

Ishveena is a geospatial enthusiast and a veteran of creating and managing compelling digital content for organizations and individuals. When she is not making magic at her desk, you are likely to find her exploring nature, eating her way through life, or binge-watching funny animal videos.