Scientists, engineers and robotics experts at a Swiss university have developed a jacket that allows users to fly drones simply by moving their torsos. The project is part of Switzerland’s goal to become the global “home of drones.” Developers hope the technology could one day be used by rescue teams, farmers, movie crews, and beyond.
Jenifer Miehlbradt at Ecole Polytechnique Federal de Lausanne (EPFL), the group that developed the jacket system, says, “Our aim was to design a control method which would be easy to learn and therefore require less mental focus from the users so that they can focus on more important issues, like search and rescue.”
She adds, “Using your torso really gives you the feeling that you are actually flying.” Move over, Superman!
The teams at EPFL started by challenging the belief that joysticks and hand-operated controls were the only or main way that humans could fly. They imagined that the body’s own movements could do the main work. That would free up the hands to do other things.
The EPFL team has published a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences in the United States explaining the development. Their studies show that the torso system is easier to learn and more precise than a joystick.
Jacket flying isn’t fully developed yet. For example, the drones still require a second operator to regulate speed.
More experiments will need to be done before jacket-wearing drone pilots will be flying the skies, but the Swiss system appears on track to change the way drones are flown. Perhaps one day the small, rich Alpine country will be as famous for drones as it is for chocolates and watches.
(AP Photo: Robotics expert Matteo Macchini displays the jacket fly controls in a virtual reality scenario.)