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Scientists Test Drone Reaction Speed with Basketball

Scientists Test Drone Reaction Speed with Basketball

Tuesday, 24 March, 2020 - 07:00
A Ghost drone by Ehang flies at the 2015 International CES outside the Las Vegas Convention Center on January 8, 2015, in Las Vegas | AFP
Cairo- Hazem Badr

Researchers at the University of Zurich have developed a new quadcopter drone equipped with a new camera and customized algorithms that cut the reaction time down to just a few milliseconds- enough to avoid a ball thrown at it from a short distance.

Drones can do many things, but avoiding obstacles is not their strongest suit yet, especially when they move quickly.

Although many flying robots are equipped with cameras that can detect obstacles, it typically takes from 20 to 40 milliseconds for the drone to process the image and react. But, this research has addressed this challenge by developing a drone capable of avoiding objects from a three-meter distance and traveling at 10 meters per second.

In their tests, the researchers used a basketball to measure the efficiency of the new drone. They throw the ball from a short distance at the drone, which managed to avoid it. The results of the experiments were announced in the Science Robotics journal.

According to a report released by the University's website on March 19, the new drone will use the so-called "event cameras" after the researchers invented new algorithms that work with it.

Traditional video cameras, such as the ones found in every smartphone, work by regularly taking snapshots of the whole scene. This is done by exposing the pixels of the image all at the same time. This way, a moving object can only be detected after all the pixels have been analyzed by the on-board computer.

Event cameras, on the other hand, have smart pixels that work independently of each other. The pixels that detect no changes remain silent, while the ones that see a change in light intensity immediately send out the information. This means that only a tiny fraction of all pixels of the image will need to be processed by the onboard computer, therefore speeding up the computation a lot.

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