UF researchers let people race drones using their minds

Written by Jaivik Shah

Wearing black headsets with tentacle-like sensors stretched over their foreheads, the competitors stare at cubes floating on computer screens as their small white drones prepare for takeoff.

As drone racing gets faster, cheaper and more mainstream, it was only a matter of time before drone pilots ditched the controller and made the leap to an actual brain-computer interface, as these researchers from the University of Florida did last week.

BCI technology has been used in the past to control everything from novelty toys to artificial limbs for paraplegics, and researchers at the University of Minnesota were actually the first to show off a mind-controlled drone in 2013. But as TechCrunch points out, this brain-controlled drone competition is another first.

The low speeds and short, 10-yard indoor course might look a little tame compared to speeding through the woods in first person, but the emphasis here is on the control scheme rather thrill of the event. During the “race,” 16 pilots were rigged up with special electroencepholagram (EEG) headsets that translate their brainwaves into specific commands controlling a DJI Phantom. While these student-pilots look like they needed some intense concentration to get those quadcopters off the ground and moving forward, it’s not much of a stretch to visualize the next generation of pilots using their minds to blast specialized drones through race courses across the globe.

About the author

Jaivik Shah

Jaivik Shah is Editor At Large of TechOptimals, He writes about how technology is changing the way we live and work in the 21st century.
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