back to article Drone quadracopters throw and catch inverted pendulum

All those stories you've read lately about drones invading your privacy by photographing you from afar? Kids' stuff … now that we have the evidence below of drones throwing and catching an inverted pendulum. That trick has been accomplished by boffins at ETH Zurich’s Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control, where a “Flying …


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  1. Don Jefe

    Drones for Everyone

    There's really no stopping drones for the average Joe now. Cheap easy to use tech is out there and even s

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The biggest worry won't be 'a' drone hovering around your bedroom window, it will be the 1000's flying through the air controlled by one handed hormonal teenagers with the likelihood that the battery will run down and the thing will drop out of the sky and hit you on the head.

      We're is my hard hat....

      1. Brent Longborough

        Don't worry about that, they'll just take the batteries out of all the remote controls...

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Air Force promo video about micro drones (CGI):

  3. Martin Budden Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I like how the thrower does a somersault.

  4. ravenviz Silver badge

    Is it April? So soon!

  5. bart


    Can't wait for autonomous flying omelet/crepe pan.

    1. Parax

      Re: Yummy

      they missed pancake day.. tossed by drone would be a new one.

  6. Esskay

    Slippery slope

    Great. It's only a matter of time now before someone teaches a killbot to catch and throw back an EMP grenade.

    I, for one, welcome... etc.

  7. Captain DaFt

    One up on the Scots

    Not only can those 'copters toss a caber, they can catch it as well... impressive!

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One up on the Scots

      Try a gay Scot some time, more than capable of both tossing and catching a caber...

      Anon to avoid incrimination of the guilty.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Anyone got a youtube link for it?

    Error #2035 on here in chrome - as usual.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Anyone got a youtube link for it?

  9. Steve Button Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Where do I get one?

    No, I'm being serious. Not the one in the video, that's probably beyond my budget. I just happened to be shopping for one of these and came across this story, and figured that The Reg comment section is one of the better places to ask for advice. Can someone please post some UK links? Thanks.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where do I get one?

      try here

      1. Steve Button Silver badge

        Re: Where do I get one?

        AC - That's so lame / old.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Where do I get one?

          Are you serious? you really can't find them for yourself?

          Or are you asking for some good reviews where would people recommend for good products & service? cos that's not what you said.

          1. Steve Button Silver badge

            Re: Where do I get one?

            "Are you serious? you really can't find them for yourself?

            Or are you asking for some good reviews"

            Yeah, I'm looking for some decent sites where I can find advice & purchase the parts. Yes, I can use Google and I tried that before putting the question in here. The problem is there are TOO MANY links, and rather than spending 1/2 hour trying to sift through them and try to work out what would be good value vs. what would be just cheap rubbish. I know I'm being a bit lazy by trying to call on the community to share their experience, but Larry Wall taught me that Laziness is a good thing, and I took him literally and applied that to everything in life.

            Perhaps I phrased the question incorrectly. Perhaps some people need to stop taking things literally, and look for meaning in a question.

            1. Dave 126 Silver badge

              Re: Where do I get one?

              Try this, a review of a low-cost Quadropter (about $40 USD, available in the UK too), followed by a discussion thread. Its rivals are mentioned in the thread. It seems well suited for beginners.

              Syma X1


              I have a conventional Syma helicopter, S105G (more stable than it is agile, so suitable for people learning in normal sized rooms), and I can't believe the number of times it has bounced of walls and ceilings with no real damage... since it was around £20 all-in, I was prepared to be generous. The battery has required soldering back onto the PCB- not hard- after my mate swatted it from the air cos we were buzzing him with it.

    2. Velv

      Re: Where do I get one?

      Try your local HMV - they were punting the Parrot AR.Drone 1 for half price (£150). Buy a couple of extra batteries as well though, as 12 minutes isn't a lot of fun time.

  10. petur
    Thumb Up

    suspicious smoke/dust/debris

    At 1:33, I think a blade got hurt :)

    Kudos for staying in the air

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: suspicious smoke/dust/debris

      Surely You read the article?

      The results can be seen in the video below, which at 1:34 features a puff of smoke as the flour-filled bag that is the pendulum’s rudimentary shock absorber bursts.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ..shows how computing power moves on.

    This reminds me of an article I read in New scientist a long time back. Some researchers were doing a “similar” experiment wherein they had a pendulum pivoted at its base on the back of a motorised wheeled truck and they were devising an algorithm to program the truck to keep the pendulum balanced by moving backwards and forwards.

    Problem was they didn’t have the processing power to solve the necessary simultaneous equations in real-time so they employed a fuzzy logic approach. This looked at angular displacement, velocity and direction to compute a move backwards/forwards quickly/slowly solution to keep the pendulum upright.

    The big advantage was it was (i) easier to compute (ii) cope with different length/mass pendulums within – quite wide IIRC – ranges without alteration of the algorithm. Whereas as described in the article when you do the “actual” calculations you have to allow for every parameter change.

    Of course it was a real Heath Robinson affair with data and power cables trailing from it. I’d bet they’d be amazed to see that vid though.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: ..shows how computing power moves on.

      For those of us who studied back in the day, there were things called "analogue computers" which could piss all over digital computers for some task - simultaneous equations being one. What takes a lot of computing power when done digitally is simple mathematics in the real world.

  12. Crisp

    Do these drones remind anyone of a T-1 Aerial?

    Surely it can't just be me.

  13. Christoph

    Gorgon Stare

    Just the Gorgon Stare isn't all that bad, as long as they don't start fitting them with SCORPION STARE.

    1. darwinev0lved

      Re: Gorgon Stare

      damn it, beaten to the Stross reference.

  14. John Hughes
    Paris Hilton

    BAE's "Gorgon Stare"?

    "BAE's "Gorgon Stare", for example, can track multiple objects within a 4KM radius beneath a drone."

    Wikipedia says:

    "Gorgon Stare is a video capture technology developed by the United States military. "


    "Gorgon Stare is being developed and tested on the MQ-9 Reaper at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. with the 53rd Wing. These sensors pods have been in development since 2009 by the Air Force’s Big Safari group and Sierra Nevada Corp.[9]"

    Where's BAE in that?

    1. hplasm

      Re: BAE's "Gorgon Stare"?

      Ahem- "Wikipedia says:"

  15. Andy 70

    Gorgon Stare

    Sorry, i read that as the Gordon Stare. I imagined Gordon Brown just staring at some MP for questioning his lack of ability. As a result i didn't think it would be much cop at object tracking - didn't he take a pie to the face?

    beer. Friday fuel.

  16. Snivelling Wretch

    I for one...

    ...welcome our unbalanced spear-flinging aerial overlords.

  17. NomNomNom

    My first thought was how can these things be weaponized. Depending on how much weight these things can lift, speed, battery life, miniaturization, AI etc these things could eventually render meat based infantry obsolete.

    If a state can afford to cheaply mass produce 1000s (or millions?) of such drones armed with blades (like the manhacks in halflife2), or even explosives then they effectively have a form of cheap robotic infantry without having to develop difficult navigation and obstacle avoidance AI for walking or wheel based robots.

    Question is for the price of 1 human grunt how many manhacks could be afforded? Given they can be stored for nothing (unlike meat soldiers) I imagine a lot. Defensively they could be scattered around an area to sit idle like landmines, the difference being that unlike landmines they can move in to attack a target. Or they could be used offensively by sending in swarms of them to attack bases at night. I don't see how current ground infantry would be able to survive in an environment swarming with these things. It would be hard enough to see them let alone hit them.

    These kind of drones will also be a big problem for counter-terrorism. How is any leader going to be able to do any outdoors speech in the future when an assassin could just release a dozen kamikaze drones 2 miles away?

    I can imagine there will soon be an international ban on development of such drones for warfare, because typically when there is a game-changing weapon that is cheap and dangerous the big states ban it. For example using cheap lasers to blind soldiers or pilots is banned, but you are perfectly allowed to blow them up with expensive missiles!

    1. Richard Ball


      A small downward-pointed shaped charge might be quite effective against squaddies / cars / enemy UAVs / whatever. I'm guessing for a given amount of offensive power it would be a smaller and lighter payload to carry than anything that works like a gun or grenade.

  18. Tascam Holiday
    Black Helicopters

    Really cool demo but...

    It's not clear from the article but I'm sure these drones aren't autonomous, there must be a motion capture system out-of-band which is doing all the processing and drone control, hence the white sheets to give good contrast for the system's cameras.

    Being able to do the same thing with autonomous drones must be much harder just due to their viewpoints, even if the processing and drone comms could all be done on-board. I guess that'll all be do-able in the near future though.

    Still very impressive nonetheless.

    1. handle

      Re: Really cool demo but...

      You're right - definitely not autonomous. Not only the white sheets but there are two reflective markers on the pole, making its position and orientation easy to calculate without intensive image processing. There will be cameras placed at different viewpoints to enable this to be done in three dimensions.

      1. handle


        The copters also have two markers on them to allow their positions and orientations to be calculated in the same way. The cameras have LEDS round the lens to produce very bright reflections from the markers, and image processing occurs inside the cameras so there's no video to be analysed at all - just a stream of co-ordinates. This keeps the delay to a minimum, which is needed to allow reaction to be quick enough.

        1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

          Re: More

          I really must wander in there next week :).

          I don't care that it isn't autonomous (and probably needs a number of cameras to ensure the entire 3D movement space is monitored), it's still very impressive. I also like how the copter controls stop them from turning over after what are actually rather wild movements.

          Hmm. Couple of cameras, fridge with cold beer, serving platter.. Must investigate :)

  19. Devious_Dan

    nomnomnom what you want is one of these

    with some fancy algorithms you could easily make it more stable while shooting.

    Surprised no one has tried an assassination attempt with one.... yet.

    1. Wombling_Free
      Black Helicopters

      Aaaand a ban on publicly available quadcopters...

      and some jail time for anyone found flying one, or publishing open source plans....

      in 3...



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