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Scientists developed software for drones to fly autonomously through the mines

Posted November 5, 2016

Drones are extremely trendy nowadays. Many bloggers use them to make their videos more interesting, people like flying them for leisure or even as a form of sports. However, drones can be very useful as a tool too. Scientists from RMIT University in Australia have developed drone software, enabling the drone to fly autonomously through the mines for search and rescue purposes.

Drones are fun to fly, but can also be used in extremely practical applications. Image credit:  최광모 via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0

Drones are fun to fly, but can also be used in extremely practical applications. Image credit: 최광모 via Wikimedia, CC BY-SA 4.0

This achievement was made in the project, involving students from the summer internship. It offered students a possibility to become members of the development team and allowed scientists to work on an idea of an autonomously flying drone with Artificial Intelligence (AI). The purpose of such machine is quite clear – it is not always safe to travel deep into the mines and not all robots can go there either. Thus, sending a flying machine would be extremely beneficial, especially if it does not require human interruption for proper work.

Team worked hard on the ACT-R system – brain of the drone. It will control the drone letting it search for rich mineral veins or participate in rescue missions. Unsatisfied with existing technology, scientists created a flexible REACT-R module, which can connect to drone’s operating system. It worked in simulation and should work in reality. Mostly it is thanks to an interesting research team that was brought together for the project.

More than anything, this shows how important it is to give students some real practical tasks. Students, interested in many different research fields, were participating in the project and the end result is breakthrough software, which can be used in practical application, such as rescue missions, mineral searching or scientific research. Julian Wise, one of the members of the research team, said: “Working on the project demonstrated how so many fields complement each other to develop a project to completion”. The paper, following the development of the software technology, has been accepted for publishing by the International Conference of Artificial Intelligence in Las Vegas.

Drones are not toys. They are useful and necessary. Autonomous drones one day soon will be working in many fields, such as mining industry, and projects like this allow students to contribute and gain experience.


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