A new kind of drone vision has been developed by European engineering group Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft that could very well change the very nature of flying robots. On their web site, they describe their new creations as 3D eye-bots, capable of forming swarmanoids, or interconnected eye-bots that can very nearly instantaneously survey a wide area of land. It’s all part of the Swarmanoid project, which is an EU funded consortium of roboticists with the mission of creating tiny robot swarms that function very much the same way as birds and bees do, to create a single entity that is better than the sum of its parts. UberGizmo says the research is both promising and fascinating, while R&D Magazine describes the swarming eye-bots as both frightening and eye opening.
The engineers from Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft describe their new eye-bots by offering a near future scenario whereby thousands of eye-bots swarm over a riot that has broken out at a soccer stadium, offering authorities a means for best handling the event, while also helping to pinpoint those that are suffering from injuries. The eye-bots do their job without any more direction than to tell them to canvass the scene, that is, autonomously, and that is part of their novelty.
The other UberGizmo explains is the new vision technology that Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft has invented. Rather than use radar and GPS as do virtually all other drones, these eye-bots use a special photography trick. It works, R&D says, by taking a picture of a scene, and then another of the same scene right away. A processor compares the light that is bounced back between the two to calculate distance. And that is how the eye-bots are able to figure out both how close they can fly to a future crowd below, and also how they can take note of other objects such as buildings, so as to avoid flying into them. The double-snapshots are taken at a rate of twenty every second, giving the eye-bots plenty of information to work with, which R&D says is also part of their scariness. They say that while Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft ‘s motives seem pure enough, it’s not difficult at all to imagine the swarms being used for military purposes or as a tool by governments to effect crowd control.
The EU, says UberGizmo is interested in the technology because of the varied uses to which it could be put. One, they say, is in search and rescuer operations in disaster, another is as a defense weapon for securing borders or derailing the drug trade that is ever present in Europe.