Video: Autonomous Indoor Copter Drone Steers with Laser Scanner

MIT researchers develop a quad-rotor helicopter that can navigate on its own

MIT's robotics whizzes have created a new flying drone that can navigate unknown indoor areas all by itself. The tiny helicopter manages its explorations by using an onboard laser scanner to map out walls and windows.

The researchers started with a quad-rotor helicopter developed by Ascending Technologies GmbH, and outfitted the micro aerial vehicle with sensors and instruments galore. Their laser scanner setup combines with a mapping algorithm to help compensate for the lack of GPS navigation in most indoor areas.

That led to a win at the 2009 AUVSI Aerial Robotics Competition, where the copter flew through a window and navigated an unfamiliar indoor area all on its own to find a blinking control panel. Here's a suggestion for the little flyer's next stop: Disaster City in College Station, Texas, where all good little drones go to cut their teeth on search and rescue operations.