Brain controlled drones within the next five years

Posted Oct 1, 2017 by Tim Sandle
Drones are well-established and used in a variety of fields. One downside is that using multiple drones requires multiple human operators, which presents a coordination problem. Researchers have a solution: brain control.
Flying drones Paris landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower is illegal
Flying drones Paris landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower is illegal
Dominique Faget, AFP
The idea of controlling drones through thought processes comes from Arizona State University (ASU). Researchers noted that controlling a single drone is a relatively straightforward task via devices like joysticks, radio controllers, and mobile phones. However, the use of multiple drones, for tasks like aerial photography and security patrols invariably creates coordination problems.
The growth in human-brain interfaces has the potential to enable the seamless control a swarm of drones. This is the idea of Panos Artemiadis, director of the Human-Oriented Robotics and Control Lab at ASU. Such interfaces are a direct communication pathway between an enhanced or wired brain and an external device. In a related development, Elon Musk has recently launched Neuralink, which is a venture to merge the human brain with artificial intelligence.
Looking to the near-future, Professor Artemiadis highlights five areas where brain-controlled drones can be applied.
Search and Rescue Missions
Artemiadis predicts that people will collaborate with aerial robots in search and rescue scenarios. A brain-robot interface would allow for control of many robots simultaneously allowing a large area to be covered in a short time in less time.
Fire Fighting
Drones equipped with infrared imaging equipment can track the spread of a forest fire in real time. This would allow emergency services to adjust their plans accordingly. In addition, drones could alert fire fighters to factors like a shift in wind direction.
Agriculture Analysis
Drones are already being put to good use in agriculture; however teams of drones can oversee and analyze large agricultural fields to produce topographic maps for soil analysis and irrigation planning. Once seeds have been planted, drones can also spot for crop infections or infestations.
Drones can enhance the broadcasting of big events; for example a single person could operate a fleet of drones shooting images and videos at an outdoor concert or sports venue.
Cyber-physical surveillance systems
Advances with brain-drone interfaces could lead to the creation of cyber-physical surveillance systems that bring together human intuition and experience along with the sensing capabilities of multiple drones. The outcome would be a more efficient and accurate surveillance system than is currently possible.