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 ]

The Conversation (0)

How Robots Can Help Us Act and Feel Younger

Toyota’s Gill Pratt on enhancing independence in old age

10 min read
An illustration of a woman making a salad with robotic arms around her holding vegetables and other salad ingredients.
Dan Page

By 2050, the global population aged 65 or more will be nearly double what it is today. The number of people over the age of 80 will triple, approaching half a billion. Supporting an aging population is a worldwide concern, but this demographic shift is especially pronounced in Japan, where more than a third of Japanese will be 65 or older by midcentury.

Toyota Research Institute (TRI), which was established by Toyota Motor Corp. in 2015 to explore autonomous cars, robotics, and “human amplification technologies,” has also been focusing a significant portion of its research on ways to help older people maintain their health, happiness, and independence as long as possible. While an important goal in itself, improving self-sufficiency for the elderly also reduces the amount of support they need from society more broadly. And without technological help, sustaining this population in an effective and dignified manner will grow increasingly difficult—first in Japan, but globally soon after.

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