Reports Wired's DangerRoom blog: "While on-the-fly autonomous navigation is a first for a full-sized helicopter, the technology developed by Sanjiv Singh and his team from Carnegie Mellon is not so different from what they used to outfit a Chevy Tahoe to win Darpa’s 2007 Urban Challenge. “It’s not as if we started from scratch,” says Singh. “A lot of the technology was there already.”

To make the helicopter self-flying, the team installed a scanning LIDAR that uses lasers to collect range information from its surroundings. The laser data is processed by a computer that relays commands to the helicopter controllers.

The data also creates a 3-D map that enables the helicopter to “see” the ground or obstacles in the air — and then adjust its trajectory accordingly. The algorithms helped the helicopter miss a tall tower during one of the tests. In another trial, the team deceptively instructed the helicopter to land on top of a car, but the chopper was not fooled, resolving instead to land on flat ground nearby."

It's based on earlier RMax automomous obstacle avoidance research:

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Comment by automatik on July 16, 2010 at 10:36pm
Now that's cool ! Looking forward to some of the same features in ArduHeli 2.0 :)
Comment by Jack Crossfire on July 16, 2010 at 11:23pm
To clarify, it does use GPS but augments it with the LIDAR information for higher level decisions.
Comment by Robert Palmore on July 19, 2010 at 8:14am
This is getting a little scary, it still may not be in my life time but there will come a time when passengers will feel better that there is a computer at the helm. The human eye update is equivalent to 25fps. Computer vision is using something around 30fps only because that is what our cameras are made for right now. They can be made for many times the refresh rate if needed and should the autonomous community start to think in that direction, industry will respond, with the higher refresh rate of vision and the already high refresh rate of other sensors reaction times could be in the sub 50ms times, far faster than I can react. This will lead to smoother flights and emergencies are dealt with instantly(to our perceptions). This will lead to the perception of artificial intelligence. LIDAR will do nothing but improve, maybe multi spectral emitters will help dealt with varying weather conditions. Ect. Scary.

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