Drones controlled with brain-computer interface

Panagiotis Artemiadis, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Arizona State University, with two drones in his Human-Oriented Robotics and Control (HORC) Lab at the ASU Tempe campus. Credit: Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Single unmanned autonomous vehicles (UAVs) directed by joysticks, radio controllers, and mobile phones are already accomplishing a variety of useful tasks, such as aerial photography and security patrols. But using multiple drones requires multiple human operators, and this presents a coordination problem.


Now a single operator using emerging human-brain interfaces can control a swarm of drones, making possible new classes of applications, according to Panos Artemiadis, director of the Human-Oriented Robotics and Control (HORC) Lab at Arizona State University.

Artemiadis is available to discuss how drone swarms using human-brain interface mechanisms will, in the next three to five years, make inroads where individually controlled UAVs cannot. Here are a few of the drone applications that are now within reach:

Search and Rescue Missions

Humans will collaborate with swarms of robots in search and rescue scenarios. The brain-robot interface enables control of many robots at the same time, and it scales the ability of a robotic team to cover larger areas in less time. If the controller detects something in the video stream that warrants closer surveillance, the swarm can be directed to close in on that area.

Fire Fighting

Armed with infrared imaging equipment, a drone swarm can be used to track the spread of a forest fire over large areas in real time, allowing firefighters to adjust their plans accordingly. The human controller can follow a reported change in weather conditions, such as a shift in wind direction, with a swarm of drones to determine if the fire has…

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