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article imageNew virtual training ground for drones

By Tim Sandle     May 19, 2018 in Technology
Boston - To become more effective drones need to be 'trained', using machine learning principles. To aid this, a new virtual reality training ground for drones has been established.
Scientists based at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have devised a new virtual reality system, designed to enable drones to visualize a rich virtual environmental within an empty physical space. The objective is to fine-tune fast-flying drones, without the need to test out the drones in the field thereby avoiding drone damage or unintended effects, such as broken windows.
The new drone training system has been called “Flight Goggles” by the researchers. Based on the trials so far it is is hoped the system will function as a virtual test-bed for a rangee of different types of drones intended to function in a range of different environmental conditions. The focus is with drones that are designed to travel at very-fast speeds.
The new system is made up of a motion capture system together with an image rendering program. The platform also has electronic capture equipment which allow the researchers to process images and transmit them to the drone. The test space resembles a gymnasium, with motion-capture cameras fitted at different locales to assess the orientation of the drones as they fly.
Here are some tests in action:
The image generation system permits the researchers to construct photorealistic scenes, such as landscapes or in-built environments, and to beam the virtual images to the drone as it is zips around the empty facility. A typical drone can process images at a rate of 90 frames per second (three times faster than the human eye). To date ten test flights of drones have been undertaken successfully, flying through the virtual window 361 times at around five miles per hour. . To date a drone has only crashed three time
Commenting on the project to Research and Development magazine, chief developer Sertac Karaman said: "We think this is a game-changer in the development of drone technology, for drones that go fast...If anything, the system can make autonomous vehicles more responsive, faster, and more efficient.”
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