Subscribe free to our newsletters via your
. 24/7 Space News .

Drone 'space ship' app to help robots on future missions
by Staff Writers
Noordwijk, Netherlands (AFP) May 01, 2013

European Space Agency scientists have developed a smartphone app that turns a toy drone into a virtual spacecraft on a mission to dock with the International Space Station, and uses crowd-sourced data from its manoeuvres to improve artificial intelligence on future missions.

The free AstroDrone app for the iPhone and iPad allows owners of the French-built Parrot A.R. -- an advanced mini drone that flies around with the aid of four rotors -- to simulate a docking with the ISS, a task until now only done by astronauts.

As the drone, which cost around 300 euros ($390), flies around, its pilot plays the game by controlling progress on the screen.

The task is to use green crosshairs to line the drone up with a virtual ISS docking port.

By tilting the phone and using finger swipes, the "astronaut" effectively controls a spacecraft similar to a Russian Soyuz capsule, including the height and speed at which the simulated docking takes place.

When the real-life drone touches a pre-set point on a wall marked by a brightly coloured square representing the port, the virtual docking is completed.

The player is then given a score, based on the speed and accuracy at which the "docking" took place.

"Playing this game turns you into a real astronaut -- it feels like you are in space," said Guido de Croon, ESA's Advance Concepts Team research fellow, the project's leader.

But the game's real ingenuity lies in the fact that the movement data it gathers from the drone during the game is sent back -- with players' permission -- to the ESA, where scientists use it to help their robotics research.

"It is one of the first ever projects of its kind which uses crowd-sourcing to glean robotic data to be used in our scientific research," said De Croon.

Drones were once the preserve of the military, but there are now some 500,000 owners of the Parrot toys around the world -- and all are potential sources of data, he said.

The data sent back to the ESA contains information on the movements drones make while humans play the game to steer the drone into its simulated docking.

"This data is then used in our own research to teach robots how to navigate by judging distances. It's the first step to reproducing these actions with artificial intelligence," De Croon said.

The implications are staggering.

"For instance, we could have autonomous spacecraft that continuously improve the way they manoeuvre, dock or land -- even in completely unknown environments."

"Or imagine a group of robots arriving on Mars, where the robots help each other to quickly learn to recognise hazardous situations without any human help," said De Croon, who with team-mate Paul Gerke is working on a similar application for Android phones.

"For the ESA, this development opens up completely new ways of involving the public in scientific experiments," added Leopold Summerer, who heads the Advance Concepts Team.

"We can obtain real-life data to train our algorithms in large amounts that would be practically impossible to get in any other way," he said.

For those worried that the drone might send private information to the ESA, such as video images of the inside of people's homes, De Croon said players need not worry: "We're not interested in the places people are flying in."

"We get only the abstract mathematical image which the drone itself picks up from navigation, along with its velocity readings," he said.

In future and should time permit, the team hopes to develop several other space rendezvous scenarios including the ESA's Rosetta probe which is to meet up with a real-life comet next year.


Related Links
All about the robots on Earth and beyond!

Comment on this article via your Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, Hotmail login.

Share this article via these popular social media networks DiggDigg RedditReddit GoogleGoogle

Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News

New sensors can give robot hands a 'gentle touch'
Cambridge, Mass. (UPI) Apr 18, 2013
Robot hands could gain a gentler touch with inexpensive tactile sensing technology utilizing widely available electronic chips, U.S. researchers say. Engineers at Harvard University have developed a very inexpensive sensor for robotic hands sensitive enough to turn a brute machine into a dexterous manipulator, the school said in a release Thursday. Called TakkTile, the sensor is ... read more

Characterizing The Lunar Radiation Environment

Russia rekindles Moon exploration program, intends setting up first human outposts there

Pre-existing mineralogy may survive lunar impacts

Lunar cycle determines hunting behaviour of nocturnal gulls

Dutch reality show seeks one-way astronauts for Mars

Accurate pointing by Curiosity

NASA Mars Orbiter Images May Show 1971 Soviet Lander

Opportunity is in position for solar conjunction at 'Cape York' on the rim of Endeavour Crater

NASA's Chief Defends Commercial Spaceflight Agreements

NASA Invites the Public to Fly Along with Voyager

Google's Brin keeps spotlight on future technologies

Mysterious water on Jupiter came from comet smash

Yuanwang III, VI depart for space-tracking missions

Shenzhou's Shadow Crew

Shenzhou 10 sent to launch site

China's Next Women Astronauts

NASA Extends Crew Flight Contract with Russian Space Agency

Cargo spaceship docks with ISS despite antenna mishap

ISS Communications Test Bed Checks Out; Experiments Begin

Spacewalkers Deploy Plasma Experiment, Install Navigational Aid

O3b Networks' first four satellites arrive for the next Arianespace Soyuz launch

On the record with... Stephane Israel, Arianespace Chairman and CEO

Vega's three-satellite payload is integrated and ready for launch

NASA Seeks Innovative Suborbital Flight Technology Proposals

Astronomer studies far-off worlds through 'characterization by proxy'

Mysterious Hot Spots Observed In A Cool Red Supergiant

Orbital Selected By NASA for TESS Astrophysics Satellite

Star-and Planet-Forming Regions May Hold Key to Life's Chirality

NASA, Air Force Seek Next Generation Space Processor Program

The Day NASA's Fermi Dodged a 1.5-ton Bullet

Snap-proof space tether

NASA, Partners Solicit Creative Materials Manufacturing Solutions

The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright 1995-2014 - Space Media Network. AFP, UPI and IANS news wire stories are copyright Agence France-Presse, United Press International and Indo-Asia News Service. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement,agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space Media Network on any Web page published or hosted by Space Media Network. Privacy Statement