A perpetual weakness of MAVs (micro air vehicles) is their frequent need for hand-holding in anything other than a wide-open or very controlled space. If they're not using GPS or motion sensors to find their locations, they can't turn on a dime the way a human pilot would. Adam Bry, Abraham Bachrash and Nicholas Roy from MIT's CSAIL group haven't overcome every problem just yet, but they may have taken combat drones and other pilotless aircraft a big step forward by giving them the tools needed to fly quickly when positioning isn't an option. Uniting a laser rangefinder with an existing 3D map of the environment -- still 'cheating,' but less dependent -- lets the prototype flyer find the distance to nearby obstacles and steer clear even at speeds that would scare any mere mortal MAV. Ideally, future designs that can create their own maps will be completely independent of humans, making us think that MIT's references to "aggressive" autonomous flight are really cues to start hiding under the bed.
Laser-toting MAV can find its way in tight spaces, might eventually hunt you down (video)
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