Flying robots swoop and swarm as a team

Tech-savvy TED-goers watched in wonder as flying robots darted through tossed hoops, worked together in swarms and even formed a band to play trademark "James Bond" film theme music.

A video of University of Pennsylvania professor Vijay Kumar showing off palm-sized "agile aerial robots" from the college lab logged more than 200,000 views online at by the time the prestigious gathering ended on Friday.

"Robots like this have many applications," Kumar said.

"They can be sent in buildings as to look for intruders or check for biochemical leaks..into collapsed buildings after disasters or into reactor buildings to check ," he continued.

Kumar held in one hand a small robot resembling a miniature helicopter with four .

It was fitted with and other sensors to feed information about its position and things around it to an on-board processor, which operated as a brain letting it react autonomously and instantly to situations.

"There is no GPS," Kumar explained. "The coordinate system is defined by the robot, where it is and what it is looking at."

He showed groups of flying robots working as teams to carry heavy objects or build block structures based on blueprints alone.

The professor likened the robots' behavior to desert naturally working together to haul a piece of fig back to their nest.

"Once you know how to fly in formation, you can actually pick up objects cooperatively," Kumar said. "We can double, triple, quadruple the robots strength by getting them to team with neighbors."

His presentation finished with nine flying robots banding together to play the James Bond spy film on musical instruments.

"Magnificent," a person writing under the name Kimani Burton said in a chat forum beneath Kumar's video at

"Its technological breakthroughs like these that remind me daily of the limitless creative capacity of humans."

Meanwhile, some in the forum lamented the potential military uses of what they saw as self-guided mini-drones.

TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design) is a series of conferences designed to present cutting-edge ideas. Speakers are given only 18 minutes to give deliver their pitch.

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Airborne robot swarms are making complex moves (w/ video)

(c) 2012 AFP

Citation: Flying robots swoop and swarm as a team (2012, March 3) retrieved 16 October 2019 from
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User comments

Mar 03, 2012
I can recommend this one. It was really one of the jaw-dropping moments on TED this year. While watching, the visions of future start to unfold in your mind.

Mar 03, 2012
I have seen many of the videos before, but the music video at the end was awesome! Thanks for posting the direct link to the TED video. Might I recommend that the news "story" itself have a link to the TED video.

Mar 03, 2012
link to the video please?

Mar 03, 2012
thanks fantastic

Mar 05, 2012
They put that music demo together in 3 days including all the modifications to instruments and whatnot)? Wow. These guys are good.

Meanwhile, some in the forum lamented the potential military uses of what they saw as self-guided mini-drones.

As always: Tools will be used for good or bad. It really depends on the person. So we should really start to do some research on how to raise kids not to be people who would want to abuse technology for their own gains.

But I do foresee these kinds of microdrones armed with a single bullet or a dollop of high explosive as throw-away assassin devices. Like guided grenades. Coming to your battlefield (or home), soon.

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