In the last couple of years, flying “quads,” often called quadcopters or quadrotors, have really come alive in the RC hobby world. They are typically flown in a sedate, conservative fashion as they are highly stable aircraft and have become favorites for aerial photography and videography. A few pioneering hobbyists have endowed them with various levels of automation to better capture artistic images and video; see diydrones.com for more details.
A very different breed of “worker bee” quad has arisen at the University of Pennsylvania’s General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Laboratory. In a widely acclaimed video presented by Daniel Mellinger, Nathan Michael and Vijay Kumar at the GRASP Lab and viewable online (scan the code on this page with your smartphone to see the video now!) you can watch their breed of autonomous quadrotors perform truly amazing high speed, aggressive, precision flight. Beyond the awesome aerial agility of the UPenn quadrotors, they have been programmed to lift objects singly and in groups to haul material around. Robot will keep you informed of further developments involving these innovative unmanned aerial systems. Photo courtesy of the UPenn Grasp Lab, www.grasp.upenn.edu.