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.