Skycall: Drones to Lead MIT Campus Tours?

by Nancy DuVergne Smith on October 3, 2013 · 0 comments

in Campus Culture, Engineering

Skycall quadcopter.

Skycall takes off from an MIT rooftop.

You can’t sign up for a drone-led campus tour yet, but a small, autonomous flying quadcopter did serve as a personal tour guide during a recent test flight around campus.

A cheery, two-minute video that shows a Harvard student lost on campus demonstrates the helpful bot, summoned by a smart phone app, leading the way through buildings, basements, and leafy green spaces to Skycall’s home base in MIT’s Senseable City Laboratory, a research group that explores how sensor technology can make cities smarter.

Skycall guide at work.

Watch a two-minute video of a Skycall guide at work.

Skycall is creating UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) or drones to perform tasks such as rescue surveillance or air quality sampling. Using autopilot, GPS, sonar sensing, and Wi-Fi connectivity, the quadcopter can sense its environment and interact with human beings. SkyCall’s tour-guide system works along predetermined routes or to user-requested destinations.

Chris Green, who leads the SkyCall project alongside lab director Carlo and R&D head Yaniv Jacob Turgeman, says the quadcopter isn’t ready for its public debut because of FAA regulations. However, Turgeman described new roles for drones in a Gizmo article:

“The urban UAV will guide us in disorienting situations, support search and rescue efforts, track environmental problems, and even act as digital insects re-introducing natural biodiversity to our man-made environments.”

Learn more about Senseable City Lab projects.

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