Drones Are Fitted With Lasers: Light Show Occurs

Here’s a video of a swarm of quadrotor drones performing a light show. A great demonstration, showing that drones can be used for benign purposes. The good part of video starts at around the 4 minute mark:

Behind the scenes:

The Quadrotors are the brainchild of Alex Kushleyev and Daniel Mellinger of KMel Robotics. As grad students working in the lab, Mellinger and Kushleyev began constructing swarming quadrotor technology from the ground up, and it was here that they helped develop and refine the quadrotor systems that KMel produces today.

These systems operate using the same technology and principles Hollywood studios use to create computer-generated imagery (CGI) for films. Each quadrotor is fitted with tiny reflective spheres that are tracked by special motion-capture cameras (the technology comes from motion-capture specialists VICON). Data from those cameras is fed through a laptop, which can track each quadrotor’s position in space. But rather than creating motion graphics from this spatial data, this laptop command the movements of each quadcopter operating in the active space. For the Cannes performance the system precisely navigated 16 aerial vehicles around the space at once while also controlling the LED lights and articulating mirrors attached to each quadrotor.

In this sense, KMel’s current technology scheme is by definition not a true swarm–in a swarm, each quadrotor would independently sense and perceive the other quadrotors around it and respond accordingly rather than being controlled from a remote laptop. But while their current setup can accurately be described as merely swarm-like, true swarm behavior is one of the many emerging technology areas KMel is exploring. In fact, exploring the boundaries of these vehicles is KMel’s core business right now.

The sound was created by underground electronic artist Oneohtrix Point Never.


  1. says

    developed a robot that can fly just like a bird. a0We’ve reported on other such fnilyg robots (Robot Juggle & Robot Heli-Bi-Wheel), but none that actually mimic the exact flight abilities of a real

  2. says

    Hey Milan,The main reason that we chose not to use coenutr-rotating props is the price. Unlike simple brushless motors that can be attached to the prop directly ( direct-drive ) and are relatively inexpensive, coenutr-rotating props require two brushless motors setup in such way that the lower motor axle passes directly through the core of the upper motor axle. This allows the upper motor to spin a prop in a directly opposite the lower motor. This setup (generally) costs about 3-5 times the cost of the equivalent single brushless motor. In addition, the parts are less robust as they are machined with small tolerances and may be prone to fail if the quadrotor suffers a crash. However, the upside of using a system is a much more balanced quadrotor (since each motor combination cancels out any rotations). There are also additional control schemes that you can implement that take this duality into consideration (such as more advanced yaw commands). We haven’t tried this out, so we don’t have much more info beyond that.Hope that helps, and let us know if you have any other questions. Also, please send us a link with your progress or final quadrotor, as we’d like to see what you’ve accomplished. Good luck!-Bill

  3. says

    Finally. A reasonable, LEGAL (I don’t think indoors counts as Federal air space governed by the FAA) commercial application of drone use. Bravo.

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