Seeing What a Drone Sees in Flight Is Mesmerizing

Nov 03, 2015

Drones are tons of fun to fly. But every time you take one out for a spin, there's a threat waiting to spoil your day aloft: Trees. Colliding with a big, lumbering oak or elm can spell the end for most small drones.

Thankfully, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have developed a drone that's capable of detecting and avoiding trees before it meets its untimely demise.

Motherboard reports the aircraft continuously scans objects in its immediate path. Its onboard computer then decides whether evasive action is necessary. This all happens nearly instantaneously; the drone isn't programmed with any prior knowledge of the obstacles in its route beforehand.

Watch MIT's tree-ducking drone in all its automated glory above.

Discover How Drones Are Made in Israel

An Israeli soldier from the Sky Rider Unit launches a Skylark mini-Unmanned Arial Vehicle (UAV) during a demonstration close to the border with Gaza. u2028u2028Sky Rider units are part of the artillery brigade and operate on the ground either independently or with other infantry soldiers to provide real-time video from the battlefield. The Israeli military began using the Skylark system in 2008 but it was not deployed extensively until Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014. u2028u2028The Sky Rider unit lives with the infantry soldiers they serve with and support during their missions, unlike pilots in the Israeli Air Force (IAF) who fly larger drones and are stationed on bases far away from where the drones fly.u2028u2028The drone is built by the Israeli company Elbit Systems. It weighs around 7 kilograms and can stay in the air for up to 3 hours. It’s used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.
An Israeli soldier from the Sky Rider Unit launches a Skylark mini-Unmanned Arial Vehicle (UAV) during a demonstration close to the border with Gaza. Sky Rider units provide real-time video from the battlefield.Vittoria Mentasti and Daniel Tepper
An Israeli soldier from the Sky Rider Unit launches a Skylark mini-Unmanned Arial Vehicle (UAV) during a demonstration close to the border with Gaza. u2028u2028Sky Rider units are part of the artillery brigade and operate on the ground either independently or with other infantry soldiers to provide real-time video from the battlefield. The Israeli military began using the Skylark system in 2008 but it was not deployed extensively until Operation Protective Edge in the summer of 2014. u2028u2028The Sky Rider unit lives with the infantry soldiers they serve with and support during their missions, unlike pilots in the Israeli Air Force (IAF) who fly larger drones and are stationed on bases far away from where the drones fly.u2028u2028The drone is built by the Israeli company Elbit Systems. It weighs around 7 kilograms and can stay in the air for up to 3 hours. It’s used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) missions.
A small trailer used as a clubhouse by soldiers in the Sky Rider unit, on an Israeli military base next to the Erez Crossing on, the border with Gaza. u2028
An employee working at the Aeronautics factory in Yavne, Israel.
The Orbiter mini UAV inside the Aeronautics Defense Systems factory in Yavne, Israel. This highly autonomous UAV can locate and track moving targets while piloting itself along a patrol route. The Orbiter is flown by military forces in over 30 countries including Mexico, Ireland, and Poland.u2028u2028The company displayed a new version of the Orbiter at the Paris Air show this past June   that includes 2.2kg warhead - turning the system into a loitering munition - essentially a kamikaze drone. These types of drones can remain above a target longer than any cruise missile and are also recoverable if the strike is aborted. The drone’s warhead is designed to detonate above a target showering an area 50 meters in diameter with shrapnel.
Employees working on airframe components inside the Aeronautics factory in Yavne, Israel. u2028u2028The bodies of modern UAV’s are mostly made up of composite materials. At the Aeronautics factory, workers employ a series of labor-intensive processes in which thin sheets of composite materials are combined to create solid pieces of the drone’s airframe.
A group of Micro-STAMP imaging payloads, made by Controp, on a worktable at the company’s factory outside of Petah-Tikva, Israel. Each unit has a color video camera as well as an infrared thermal imaging camera that can see at night or through thick cloud cover and fog. The imaging paylaod is one of th emost important parts of a UAV.
A storage area inside the Aeronautics factory in Yavne, Israel.
Ground control stations, used to pilot larger UAV’s, at IAI’s main facility, near Ben Gurion Airport, Israel. These portable systems, built inside of unassuming shipping containers, are used to remotely command UAV’s.
A joystick control for manually piloting a UAV inside of a ground control station at the Aeronautics factory in Yavne, Israel.
A screen grab of test footage from an infrared camera provided by Controp.
Inside a hangar at Israeli Aerospace Industries’s (IAI) main facility, near Ben Gurion Airport, Israel. Founded in 1953, the state-owned company is the largest aerospace and defense manufacturer in the country. IAI has produced fighter jets, missiles, and satellites for domestic and international clients and is the largest manufacturer of UAV systems in Israel.u2028u2028This hangar is used as a showroom, exhibiting the many UAVs and related systems produced by the company. The small vehicle on the right is a scale-model of the Naval Rotary Unmanned Air Vehicle – a helicopter drone used for naval ISR missions.
An Israeli soldier from the Sky Rider Unit launches a Skylark mini-Unmanned Arial Vehicle (UAV) during a demonstration c
... VIEW MORE

Vittoria Mentasti and Daniel Tepper
1 of 11
TIME may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website. Offers may be subject to change without notice.