Meet the dazzling flying machines of the future | Raffaello D’Andrea

Meet the dazzling flying machines of the future | Raffaello D’Andrea

What started as a platform for hobbyists is poised to become
a multibillion-dollar industry. Inspection, environmental monitoring,
photography and film and journalism: these are some of the potential
applications for commercial drones, and their enablers
are the capabilities being developed at research facilities around the world. For example, before aerial
package delivery entered our social consciousness, an autonomous fleet of flying machines
built a six-meter-tall tower composed of 1,500 bricks in front of a live audience
at the FRAC Centre in France, and several years ago,
they started to fly with ropes. By tethering flying machines, they can achieve high speeds
and accelerations in very tight spaces. They can also autonomously build
tensile structures. Skills learned include how to carry loads, how to cope with disturbances, and in general, how to interact
with the physical world. Today we want to show you some
new projects that we’ve been working on. Their aim is to push the boundary
of what can be achieved with autonomous flight. Now, for a system to function
autonomously, it must collectively know the location
of its mobile objects in space. Back at our lab at ETH Zurich, we often use external cameras
to locate objects, which then allows us to focus our efforts on the rapid development
of highly dynamic tasks. For the demos you will see today, however, we will use new localization technology
developed by Verity Studios, a spin-off from our lab. There are no external cameras. Each flying machine uses onboard sensors
to determine its location in space and onboard computation
to determine what its actions should be. The only external commands
are high-level ones such as “take off” and “land.” This is a so-called tail-sitter. It’s an aircraft that tries
to have its cake and eat it. Like other fixed-wing aircraft,
it is efficient in forward flight, much more so than helicopters
and variations thereof. Unlike most other
fixed-wing aircraft, however, it is capable of hovering, which has huge advantages
for takeoff, landing and general versatility. There is no free lunch, unfortunately. One of the limitations with tail-sitters is that they’re susceptible
to disturbances such as wind gusts. We’re developing new control
architectures and algorithms that address this limitation. The idea is for the aircraft to recover no matter what state it finds itself in, and through practice,
improve its performance over time. (Applause) OK. When doing research, we often ask ourselves
fundamental abstract questions that try to get at the heart of a matter. For example, one such question would be, what is the minimum number of moving parts
needed for controlled flight? Now, there are practical reasons why you may want to know
the answer to such a question. Helicopters, for example, are affectionately known
as machines with a thousand moving parts all conspiring to do you bodily harm. It turns out that decades ago, skilled pilots were able to fly
remote-controlled aircraft that had only two moving parts: a propeller and a tail rudder. We recently discovered
that it could be done with just one. This is the monospinner, the world’s mechanically simplest
controllable flying machine, invented just a few months ago. It has only one moving part, a propeller. It has no flaps, no hinges, no ailerons, no other actuators,
no other control surfaces, just a simple propeller. Even though it’s mechanically simple, there’s a lot going on
in its little electronic brain to allow it to fly in a stable fashion
and to move anywhere it wants in space. Even so, it doesn’t yet have the sophisticated algorithms
of the tail-sitter, which means that in order
to get it to fly, I have to throw it just right. And because the probability
of me throwing it just right is very low, given everybody watching me, what we’re going to do instead is show you a video
that we shot last night. (Laughter) (Applause) If the monospinner
is an exercise in frugality, this machine here, the omnicopter,
with its eight propellers, is an exercise in excess. What can you do with all this surplus? The thing to notice
is that it is highly symmetric. As a result, it is ambivalent
to orientation. This gives it an extraordinary capability. It can move anywhere it wants in space irrespective of where it is facing and even of how it is rotating. It has its own complexities, mainly having to do
with the interacting flows from its eight propellers. Some of this can be modeled,
while the rest can be learned on the fly. Let’s take a look. (Applause) If flying machines are going
to enter part of our daily lives, they will need to become
extremely safe and reliable. This machine over here is actually two separate
two-propeller flying machines. This one wants to spin clockwise. This other one wants
to spin counterclockwise. When you put them together, they behave like one
high-performance quadrocopter. If anything goes wrong, however — a motor fails, a propeller fails,
electronics, even a battery pack — the machine can still fly,
albeit in a degraded fashion. We’re going to demonstrate this to you now
by disabling one of its halves. (Applause) This last demonstration is an exploration of synthetic swarms. The large number of autonomous,
coordinated entities offers a new palette
for aesthetic expression. We’ve taken commercially available
micro quadcopters, each weighing less
than a slice of bread, by the way, and outfitted them
with our localization technology and custom algorithms. Because each unit
knows where it is in space and is self-controlled, there is really no limit to their number. (Applause) (Applause) (Applause) Hopefully, these demonstrations
will motivate you to dream up new revolutionary roles
for flying machines. That ultrasafe one over there for example has aspirations to become
a flying lampshade on Broadway. (Laughter) The reality is that it is
difficult to predict the impact of nascent technology. And for folks like us, the real reward
is the journey and the act of creation. It’s a continual reminder of how wonderful and magical
the universe we live in is, that it allows creative, clever creatures to sculpt it in such spectacular ways. The fact that this technology has such huge commercial
and economic potential is just icing on the cake. Thank you. (Applause)


  1. The one you throw in the air works well then!!…. NOT
    Shows video, throw in air pause… and thats it. So impressive, not like you could do that with a stick is it.

  2. You humans are primitive, you are still using propellers? No wonder we don't visit you!
    We only socialize with civilizations that have achieved: Teleportation and levitation in a massive scale.

  3. Thanks guys. Everyone is working on their own little part of skynet so when the day comes that Skynet becomes self aware all your hard work will have payed off to eliminate humankind.

  4. These comments appear to be right on. A cocky attitude is a precursor to failure. More specifically: we had a president who chose to bomb the most independent thriving country of Africa. This country is Libya, Libya had their own water source and advanced-enough way of civilization virtually destroyed. Obama is… was part of the New World Order, which is an agenda of a one world government. The instrument demonstrated in this video is something to be proud of but only from a technical standpoint. Therefore, the moment such technology is used for foreign policy agendas as well as UFO distraction debunking agendas is the moment you, as an intelligible citizen, should be aware.

  5. On top of that, this video is ridiculous. NASA in Hebrew means "to deceive." Technology is ridiculously well beyond what is presented in this video. But, hey, it's Ted Talks. It must be up-to-date, RIGHT?

  6. These are cool but still within the realms of what we already know, which is hardly new. Be nice to see something truly groundbreaking – like harnessed gravity or something. Also drone noise is horrific. Surely a silent drone is the future of drones.

  7. another fair use of these technology, with a great and ambitiuos becoming…

  8. ALL this tech is ONLY used for War. Like always, and what he called; "Aesthetic Expression" I call BULLSHIT. Any with a brain should be able to see what they can do to big Citys and specify special targets, it's the Devils Dark Science.

  9. This is so so so SAD for me , I saw this Video but I Never Watched it to the end got distracted to do so ,and the Sad thing is,, its posted in 2016 & I get to watch it all in 2019😓😤

  10. These things always remind me of a film I watched long ago can't remember the title but I do remember things like these that were used to hunt people…… it was impossible to get away from them!!!! NOT A FAN!!! Eventually it will be used to control you

  11. I can see someone with a net catching one of these. These things will never be practical in a real world setting.

  12. could be a good tool for space exploration. if they can be that autonomous (and coördinated) linked to a computer or remote computer,it would allow to explore a far greater area of for instance mars than the mars curiousity rover ever could do on its own.

  13. I like when inventories shows causally how amazing technology we’ll save us all or serve us all. But the truth is this guys are or well be responsible for many lost jobs round the world and potentially loss of lives. Please stop ✋

  14. … and then, we decided to sell that technology to the army so we could develop other stuff and buy ourself condos, and they came up with something very cool called autonomous ultra light laser pistol and then SWWWWWOSHHHH… RUN FOR YOUR LIFE!!!!

  15. Of course, it can have " aesthetic value "most things made is with that value in mine.
    We don't want to be seen in an ugly car,
    that is not the problem…
    This technology has more sides than realized,
    an can be used in ways that will just boggle the mine.
    and just as dangerous.
    We may not have let this gene out of its' bottle!!!.
    But who knows, we may get lucky!

  16. Did you see the sheep in the audience? The last demonstration showed how drones can fly through the mail slot, into your bedroom and shoot a dart through your eyeball, into the brain, then fly to the neighbors house…..all undetected. CLAP, SHEEP, CLAP

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