Swarming Quadrotors Get Nano-ized

UPenn's GRASP Lab shows off some cool tricks with a swarm of tiny little quadrotors

1 min read
Swarming Quadrotors Get Nano-ized

The GRASP Lab at the University of Pennsylvania is already famous for its quadrotor tricks, including bots that can fly through windows and hula hoops, build structures, and even land on each other. Now, those big bad quadrotors have been shrunk down into much smaller "nano quadrotors," and the GRASP Lab has been playing around with lots of them.

I would guess that one advantage of having smaller quadrotors (besides sound even more like a swarm of giant angry bees) is that you can cram more of them into a given space, allowing you to perform more complex swarm behaviors. And, as you can see from the video, they're eminently tossable, and it sort of looks like you can just chuck 'em like ninja stars and they'll self-right and stabilize themselves.

If my counting is right, up to 20 of these things can fly in formation all at once, and it's very impressive to see them make a series of different 3D shapes. This makes me think of MIT's Flyfire project from February 2010, which would have (or will?) use very large swarms of small helicopters with synchronized LEDs attached to them to form a huge dynamic 3D animated display. Since Flyfire hasn't happened yet, I'd love to see what UPenn could do by sticking LEDs on their fleet of 20 nanoquads and taking some new view with the lights off. Oh, and take some long-exposure pics while you're at it, too!

[ UPenn GRASP Lab ]

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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
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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
DarkGray

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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