March 5, 2010
Want to know more about the future of flying robots? Assistant Research Professor Pei Zhang and the students working with him at Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley can tell you. Their contribution to the field, SensorFly, is featured in this month's Popular Science cover story, "Aerobot Invasion: The World's Newest and Most Spectacular Unmanned Aircraft."
SensorFly is a novel, low-cost, controlled-mobile aerial sensor networking platform that weighs in at around 30 grams and is about 2.5 inches long (6.5 inches in diameter). These autonomous helicopter nodes feature communication, ranging and collaborative path capabilities that Zhang and ECE PhD students Aveek Purohit and Zheng Sun say could sense survivors after disasters, or enemies in urban combat situations. Popular Science writes, "SensorFly ... works in blind swarms, bouncing off the walls and relaying its location to others, collectively building a map of its surroundings." The article mentions that in five years, swarms of SensorFlies could be helping first responders search rubble for survivors or detecting gas leaks.
While SensorFly doesn't appear in the magazine's free online article, it is featured in the "Bats, Bees and Other Feats of Biomimicry" portion of the story on page 43 in the print edition. (It's also pictured on page 37, flying through the hallway in Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley's Building 23.) In addition to landing in Popular Science, SensorFly has also appeared in New Scientist, Wired UK, Make Magazine and other publications.
For more on SensorFly, see http://sensorfly.sv.cmu.edu/SensorFly/Home.html.
SensorFly in action. (Photo courtesy of Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley.)