What if we could eliminate the need for human intervention in the most dangerous and deadly situations? What if the ability to save a life was not done by endangering the life of another? What if the safety of an area could be determined without the need to send someone in to check the premises? These are a few of the reasons why autonomous vehicles and equipment have become such a fascinating area of development in today's world. The technology available and its integration have brought us closer to the reality of such scenarios occurring not only in a threatening situations across the globe, but in our every day lives whether it be for security and surveillance or search and rescue missions.
Researchers at Stanford University have developed STARMAC (Stanford Testbed of Autonomous Rotorcraft for Multi-Agent Control). This research shows how using the current technology available, students have created a multi-vehicle test bed used to demonstrate new concepts in multi-agent control on a real-world platform. The team created a small and light, low cost design which has provided numerous opportunities for innovative work. STARMAC consists of up to eight quadrotor vehicles. The system uses Crossbow's Stargate platform for position estimation and control. The Stargate platform was pre-configured with a compact flash 802.11b WiFi card and field testing revealed significant improvements in communication robustness between the base station and vehicle compared with earlier designs.
The video below highlights the development work being done and the ultimate goal of this type of research:
Whether this technology will be used for cinematography allowing aircraft to be flown in more cutting-edge maneuvers to gain better aerial shots than humanly possible, or creating better topographical maps for aerial mapping by flying closer to the ground than is humanly comfortable, or entering devastated areas to assess damage when humanly inaccessible...the list can go on and on. The bottom line is that this type of research and development continues to pave the path to a future where human life could be more protected in situations where it has been endangered in the past.