An unmanned drone that can fly around hazards such as trees and poles without human control has been developed, opening the possibility of more autonomous flight.
Now, however, researchers at New York's Cornell University have managed to develop software that will help drones to dodge obstacles.
In the experiments, a miniature helicopter equipped with a camera captures images as it flies. Software developed by assistant professor of computer science Ashutosh Saxena and his team turns the image in the drone's camera into a 3D model of its environment, and the robotic brain then uses an algorithm to determine which objects are obstacles.
In 53 flights in environments full of hazards, the robot managed to find a pathway without crashing into any obstacles - although the final two flights failed due to gusts of wind.
Eventually it is hoped that the drone will be able to calculate wind patterns and avoid moving objects such as birds.
The research is being funded by US Defence agency DARPA and drone-producer Lockheed Martin.
By Ben Bryant
08 Nov 2012