Going one step beyond motion control, the University of Florida saw a world first a week ago with the first ever mind controlled drone race.
The race saw 16 contestants going head-to-head over a 10m course, using EEG headsets (that would be electroencephalography – or the recording of brainwaves). The headset is intended to connect electrical activity related to specific thoughts to an output, such as forward motion of the drone. Set in an indoor basketball court you might guess from the short course that this would be a bit of a hit or miss affair – and you wouldn’t be wrong as not all of the ‘mind-controlling’ pilots achieved full takeoff. Needless to say it’s an art that needs to be mastered.
“With events like this, we’re popularizing the use of BCI (brain control interfaces) instead of it being stuck in the research lab,” PhD student Chris Crawford told The AP, as featured on CBCNews. “BCI was a technology that was geared specifically for medical purposes, and in order to expand this to the general public, we actually have to embrace these consumer-brand devices and push them to the limit.”
The race acted as a showcase for the computer science students’ research, investigating how brain controlled interfaces can be applied – and particularly how they can be integrated into Internet of Things gadgets.
More ominously, the Unmanned Systems Laboratory at the University of Texas is using a US Department of Defense grant to develop a system that will allow a single operator to control a fleet of drones with the power of their mind.
Looking ahead, it’s hoped that the race will become an annual event, attracting pilots and teams from other universities.
Somewhat similar device are actually already commercially available. For example, the Puzzlebox Orbit is a helicopter, contained within a protective spherical shield, that is controlled with an EEG headset. You can buy one here for just over £80; and you can see the Orbit being tested out below:
Is mind control heading for FPV racing any time soon?