‘Autonomous’ Helicopters Teach Themselves To Fly

By | September 4, 2008

Stanford computer scientists have developed an artificial intelligence system that enables robotic helicopters to teach themselves to fly difficult stunts by watching other helicopters perform the same maneuvers.

The result is an autonomous helicopter than can perform a complete airshow of complex tricks on its own.

The stunts are “by far the most difficult aerobatic maneuvers flown by any computer controlled helicopter,” said Andrew Ng, the professor directing the research of graduate students Pieter Abbeel, Adam Coates, Timothy Hunter and Morgan Quigley.

The dazzling airshow is an important demonstration of “apprenticeship learning,” in which robots learn by observing an expert, rather than by having software engineers peck away at their keyboards in an attempt to write instructions from scratch.

Stanford’s artificial intelligence system learned how to fly by “watching” the four-foot-long helicopters flown by expert radio control pilot Garett Oku. “Garett can pick up any helicopter, even ones he’s never seen, and go fly amazing aerobatics. So the question for us is always, why can’t computers do things like this?” Coates said. … Computers can, it turns out.

For five minutes, the chopper, on its own, ran through a dizzying series of stunts beyond the capabilities of a full-scale piloted helicopter and other autonomous remote control helicopters. The artificial-intelligence helicopter performed a smorgasbord of difficult maneuvers: traveling flips, rolls, loops with pirouettes, stall-turns with pirouettes, a knife-edge, an Immelmann, a slapper, an inverted tail slide and a hurricane, described as a “fast backward funnel.”

The pièce de résistance may have been the “tic toc,” in which the helicopter, while pointed straight up, hovers with a side-to-side motion as if it were the pendulum of an upside down clock. – SCIENCEDAILY

That’s a show I’d like to see. Ah, what did we do before Youtube? Check it out:

Yow! Put a disk shaped shell around this and it would make an awesome UFO.

0 thoughts on “‘Autonomous’ Helicopters Teach Themselves To Fly

  1. Pete the Drum Scientist

    Xeno,
    Scary….I just watched Terminator 3 “Rise of the Machines”.
    With every new development in technology, we need a process to reverse anything that can control itself. Some sort of “Achilles’ Heel” if you will.

  2. Xeno Post author

    Good point, Pete. What if a flock of these learning machines learns how to attack people? It would only be a matter of time before they would take over the world and then we would be their slaves. Who knows what weird stuff we’d have to do for them.

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