Engineers at the Vienna University of Technology announced the development of the first totally self-piloting quadcopter at the Virtual-Reality-Team at Vienna University of Technology website on Aug. 19, 2013.
The quadcopter operates independent of any human control and without any external computer control. All the visual and computing needs necessary for complicated flight maneuvers inside and outside are produced by a smart phone carried on board the quadcopter. The Vienna quadcopter is totally free of any external data input including GPS.
Initial testing used quick response code (two-dimensional barcodes) that enabled the phone to establish location and create a virtual map of the test area in a room. Flight in an enclosed area is inherently more difficult due to the space limitations and cornering constraints.
The researchers envision a device that will be independent of any barcodes and completely self-piloting in any environment.
A self-piloting quadcopter could be used as a tool to investigate fire sites before firefighters enter the area, could serve as guides in large buildings particularly for the visually impaired, and could be an independent monitor of deforestation activity and animal poaching. The device could also be used as a crowd monitoring alert system for potential terrorist attacks.
The most expensive part of the device is the smart phone. The self-piloting quadcopter costs around $1,300 at present and offers a cost effective and highly adaptive alternative to human exposure to dangerous situations.
A video of the quadcopter flying can be seen here.