back to article On yer bike! Boffins teach AI drone to fly itself using cams on bicycles, self-driving car

Researchers have taught a drone to fly autonomously through the streets of Zürich, Switzerland, by using a simple neural network. As tech companies toy with the idea of using mini-drones for delivery, monitoring buildings, or surveillance, then figuring out how to fly them without human control is vital if sales are to scale …

  1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

    Rotating blades at groin height

    Why, all of a sudden, I somehow do not feel thrilled by this idea...

    1. jmch Silver badge

      Re: Rotating blades at groin height

      " it can also only move on a single plane at groin height"

      what I thought a well, BUT it's an interesting proof of concept. Make then fly at around 2.5 meters (high enough to avoid most urban obstacles) and it would work very well... at least from a technical point of view. As to whether we need/want these things flying around everywhere, that's another discussion to be had (before arriving at a firm NO conclusion)

      1. jake Silver badge

        Re: Rotating blades at groin height

        "2.5 meters (high enough to avoid most urban obstacles)"

        Brooms, baseball/cricket/golf bats, hats gloves & scarves, frisbees, junk food wrappers, small change ... at that altitude, drone parts will be easy pickings.

        Of course, they'll be easy pickings at any altitude in an urban setting.

      2. Andrew Commons

        Re: Rotating blades at groin height

        "2.5 meters (high enough to avoid most urban obstacles testicles)"

        There, fixed it for you.

        1. AMBxx Silver badge
          Stop

          Re: Rotating blades at groin height

          In 100 years, the period from 2010 - 2020 will be know as the 'Era of Tech Stupidity'.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Rotating blades at groin height

            and the birth rate will drop dramatically.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Rotating blades at groin height

              In the UK, his testing would have run foul of even the light touch rules govening drones. We aren't likely to see anything like this in the UK at any point in the near future.

              (1) The person in charge of a small unmanned surveillance aircraft must not fly the aircraft in any of the circumstances described in paragraph (2) except in accordance with a permission issued by the CAA.

              https://www.caa.co.uk/Consumers/Unmanned-aircraft/Recreational-drones/Recreational-drone-flights/

              (2) The circumstances referred to in paragraph (1) are:

              (a) over or within 150 metres of any congested area;

              (b) over or within 150 metres of an organised open-air assembly of more than

              1,000 persons;

              (c) within 50 metres of any vessel, vehicle or structure which is not under the

              control of the person in charge of the aircraft;

              or

              (d) subject to paragraphs (3) and (4), within 50 metres of any person.

    2. Evil Auditor Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Rotating blades at groin height

      Why, all of a sudden, I somehow do not feel thrilled by this idea...

      'cause this not your kind of kinky fetish.

  2. Alister Silver badge

    Great!

    I really look forward to the idea of a future where, as I walk down the street doing my shopping, all I can hear is the angry buzzing of the constant cloud of drones overhead, with the occasional scream as one descends to make a delivery and catches an unwary pedestrian.

    I can see a time where Trafalgar Square will be the territory of feral drones, and the pigeons will all be in hiding.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Great!

      "I can see a time where Trafalgar Square will be the territory of feral drones, and the pigeons will all be in hiding."

      ... with council operatives issuing penalty notices to families who have brought their children to "charge the drones"

    2. AS1

      Re: Great!

      In the future, you won't need to go outside to shop. Your every desire will be provided direct to your treadmill by One-Glance™ where simply looking at an advert triggers the purchase (funds allowing, you have 87364 steps remaining to achieve the next Buyers' Level).

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Treadmill?

        If consumerism of the future is funded by steps on a treadmill (maybe this is a literary reference I didn't catch?) then one of the first products sold will be robot legs to do your treadmilling for you. Sort of an updated equivalent of bots to level up in MMOPRGs.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Great!

      "I can see a time where Trafalgar Square will be the territory of feral drones, and the pigeons will all be in hiding."

      Tom Lehrer, where are you when we need you? Drones, don't go for the peanuts coated in cyanide...

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    If a fly can do it...

    "It works by examining images from a camera, and produces two outputs: a steering angle so it can hover and skirt around obstacles, and a collision probability so it knows whether or not it's likely to bump into stuff, and take appropriate action."

    Ahh, back to the basics!

    1. JonP

      Re: If a fly can do it...

      As long as they add some way of dealing with (glass) windows!

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Pah

    Didn't Tomahawk Cruise Missiles do this in the eighties?

    1. Steve K Silver badge

      Re: Pah

      Yes, but they were designed to hit something and then scatter their parts around violently

    2. Jack of Shadows Silver badge

      Re: Pah

      Yep, TLAMs were even merging with freeway traffic on their way from launch off the coast of Southern California to the range in Utah. However, they're a lot smarter than this drone, or even pigeons for that matter. One of the systems I'd sign off on when we upgraded the software.

  5. Christoph Silver badge
    FAIL

    Ye gods. Are they really considering this? They cannot possibly have a zero failure rate of avoiding obstacles. This gadget could cause serious injury, especially to a small child.

    If a Tesla can fail to notice a lorry, this could easily fail to notice a toddler.

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge

      People are also eminently capable of failing to notice a toddler, or as they are also known, mobile tripping hazards.

      I'm also fairly certain that once any system is being used in the real world, time spent at Toddler Decapitation Height will be negligible.

      1. DropBear Silver badge

        "People are also eminently capable of failing to notice a toddler, or as they are also known, mobile tripping hazards."

        Living things tend to be exceedingly good at diverting/cushioning the blow in the last milliseconds preceding an impact they failed to avoid whenever there is something around they might want to protect; they can also be warned to exercise heightened caution wherever said mobile tripping hazards may dwell. Neither of those things is really feasible with a four-disk Flying Buzzsaw of Dismemberment. And no, you really don't want to get in contact even with a four-inch featherweight toy.

    2. DougS Silver badge

      Adult groin height = toddler eye gouging height. They literally couldn't choose a worse height to operate at in this test!

      Fortunately people don't have rotating blades attached to them so when they bump into an unseen toddler the risk of permanent injury is significantly less.

  6. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    Double Pah

    And I've open sourced my plans for a battery that will power a drone for a week /s

    1. Jimmy2Cows
      Coat

      Re: Double Pah

      Plug it into the mains. It'll be powered forever, and no battery pack to carry means more load capability. Range is a bit... limited... but that's an implementation detail right?

      1. Toltec

        Re: Double Pah

        They could just trail antenna on to a system of overhead wires to charge up, even better just fit wireless charging pads to walls or roofs.

        1. Mark 85 Silver badge

          Re: Double Pah

          Sort of like trolley buses then? If you don't live on the main route where the cables are, your package may never get to you.

  7. This post has been deleted by its author

  8. Kubla Cant Silver badge
    Flame

    Our intuition was that cars, bicycles, or similar vehicles, already have this great ability. Therefore, we developed an algorithm to make drones that can imitate them.

    Your intuition was rubbish. Cars, bicycles, and similar vehicles have no ability. Their drivers or riders may, in some cases, have great ability.

    1. DougS Silver badge

      My bicycle has pretty good intuition for avoiding collisions with people and objects when I'm not riding it. It will immediately fall over, thus limiting the chance of said collisions!

  9. MJB7
    Black Helicopters

    Re: "In the UK"

    It does say in the regulations you quote that you can ask the CAA for permission. I don't suppose the CAA would be much harder to convince that the local ethics committee. (I presume they had someone with their hands hovering over a kill switch so it would just drop on the ground. That's not too brilliant as a general strategy for drones, but at their height, it would have worked fine.)

    (Icon because ....)

  10. Uffish

    Uncanny valley

    They created a system that looks as though it had a tiny human inside piloting it. 10/10 for effort and results but it is the creepiest drone I have ever seen.

  11. dervheid
    Black Helicopters

    DroNet?

    Just cut to the chase and call it SkyNet...

  12. ThatOne Silver badge
    Devil

    Drones, check.

    AI, check.

    Now they must find a way to add Blockchain to that, and they will have secured founding till they retire...

    1. DropBear Silver badge
      Trollface

      That sound very, very implementation-dependent, they should tread cautiously; a drone on a chain sounds very safe (as long as you're out of the radius...), a drone with spinning/flailing chains on the other hand...

  13. Evil Auditor Silver badge
    Devil

    Operating on single plane

    EerieEasy solution: forget about pictures to teach the AI and instead use a self-teaching system such as AlphaZero. Might need a more complex neural network though. But I'd expect totally innovative ways to navigate the city. And maybe the AI gets the hang of hoovering at groin level - just for fun.

  14. Long John Brass Silver badge

    I for one welcome...

    Our crotch height robotic overlords

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019