MIT's camera drones are smart enough to get the perfect shot

Directors can tell a drone how they want a shot framed, and it figures out a flight path on its own.

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Over the last few years we've seen more camera drones than we can count, but getting the best footage out of them will take something extra. While many big budget productions are already using drone cameras, a system developed by MIT and ETH Zurich researchers goes beyond mere Steadicam or even subject-tracking, by allowing the director to define exactly how a shot is framed.

Specifically, it lets operators specify where an object or face should be in the frame, which direction it should face and how large it will appear, while also accounting for obstacles in the environment. That way the drone can calculate an appropriate flight path on its own, weighing the various factors against each other to get the best shot each time. The researchers will present their findings at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation later this month, but for now, directors will have to keep begging Roger Deakins to shoot their next project.