This Invincible Flying Robot Just Won a $1 Million Drone Competition

Flyability's cleverly designed drone wins Drones for Good competition

1 min read
This Invincible Flying Robot Just Won a $1 Million Drone Competition
Image: Flyability

We started writing about AirBurr, the robot that would become Gimball, in October of 2009. Over the last five or so years, we’ve watched it change and evolve through what by now has to be more than a dozen unique versions until we were introduced to Gimball at ICRA 2014 in Japan. This is a robot with quite an academic development history, and that makes us particularly excited to see it win US $1 million in the first Drones for Good competition (an event organized by the United Arab Emirates government), not as a research project, but as a commercial one.  

First, some background on Gimball:

And here’s the onboard footage from the competition finals, showing the robot locating simulated people in a simulated disaster zone, flying through very narrow areas outside of the pilot’s line of sight:

Really simplifies the navigation, doesn’t it? When in doubt, smash into stuff! It also simplifies dealing with laggy video or controls, since the drone is perfectly happy to not be under any sort of control for short periods of time. And smashing into stuff can actually be a good thing: in 2013, Flyability founder and CTO Adrien Briod was working on a way to use collisions to build maps.

Since Flyability is a company developing a new product, their plan is to take the million and use it accelerate the development of their first commercial drone with a focus on search and rescue by adding infrared sensors and visual SLAM capability. And, you have to figure that they’ll spend at least a little bit of the prize money throwing one awesome victory party.

[ Flyability ] via [ Drones for Good ] and [ RoboHub ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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