It’s the kind of tech startup that we could really get excited about if we weren’t fairly certain it’s some kind of hoax. A Web site has popped up at TacoCopter.com that offers a unique service: tacos airlifted directly to your doorstep via unmanned quadcopter drone. The rise of the machines never sounded so scrumptious.
We’ve written so much about the University of Pennsylvania’s GRASP Lab and their adorably awesome autonomous quadcopters that we kind of feel like we’ve watched them grow up. We’ve watched them learn how to move around, watched them play with building blocks, and watched them learn how to interact with each other. So we’ll never forget this, our favorite quadcopters’ first music recital.
The GRASP Lab at the University of Pennsylvania is a perennial PopSci favorite. Yeah, yeah, we've all seen robotic quadcopter drones before. But these tiny, so-called "nano quadrotors" are kind of blowing my mind right now. Dial the video below up to about 0:40 and you'll see why.
We’ve seen plenty of quadcopters and plenty of follow-the-leader ‘bots, but this might be our first brush with follow-the-leader ‘bots that work together to build a mobile landing pad for a quadcopter while it’s in flight. But that’s not even the coolest part about this robotic system from the Georgia Robotics and Intelligent Systems Lab.
The quadcopters at the University of Pennsylvania's Grasp Lab have been a particular source of joy for us ever since the lab began posting videos of their flying 'bots' antics. We've seen them maneuvering through tight windows, lifting payloads as a team, and autonomously working together to build towers. What we haven't seen them do is crash.
This cute hand-built quadcopter might not be able to play tennis, but it's not CrazyFlie's fault — it's much to small to bounce anything around. The copter is basically a flying printed circuit board and not much else.
Whenever a new video emerges from UPenn's GRASP lab (that's General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception), it's usually awesome, and this one is no exception. A team there has been developing innovative quadcopter tech that not only maneuvers impressively well, but also works autonomously and in teams of multiple quadcopters. Coupled with a gripper designed to pick things up, the quadcopters have in past videos exhibited the ability to work in concert to pick up heavy objects, so it was only a matter of time before the quadcopter crews started building things autonomously.
There's no question that the future of warfare, espionage, and clandestine operations is moving rapidly toward reliance on drone aircraft. But should citizens grow restless when this technology moves into the private sector? A German drone maker claims Google is trialing one of its drones, a battery-powered surveillance quadcopter previously used by UK police and special forces. What the search giant and alleged Wi-Fi data collector plans to do with the drone is unclear, but it seems likely that this isn't going to sit well with privacy advocates.
UPenn's quadcopters are learning new tricks. We were impressed last month when video emerged of the autonomous 'copters ducking through very tight spaces with startling agility. Now, the GRASP Lab's tiny aircraft have learned to work in teams to lift heavy payloads with surprising grace.