How Future Drones Could Become Like Pets
CREDIT: Falkor Systems
Drones have been getting a bad rap recently, both in the U.S. and worldwide, but that may change once they become our flying pets.
Sameer Parekh, the CEO of Falkor Systems, is working to make autonomous flying robots a household staple. He believes that once people see how useful these robots are for creative and interactive activities, their fears will start to subside. “By creating a robot that flies autonomously on your behalf, you’re transmitting your sense of self into your robot, and I find that very inspiring,” he said.
Hobbyists have been building recreational unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs (the technical and preferred term for "drone"), for quite some time. But most of them are not fully autonomous and require a specific set of skills to build and operate.
Having a prepackaged autonomous UAV breaks down barriers and makes it accessible to the public, Parekh said. The robot can be given a task, but it will figure out how to accomplish it on its own.
Falkor Systems’ first attempt to break into the consumer UAV space will target professional photography — in particular, extreme sports photography. The company has teamed up with professional athletes to field-test UAVs in skiing and base-jumping activities.
“The angles people get [while filming] are not quite as intimate as would be possible with an autonomous flying robot,” Parekh said.
Athletes generally attach a GoPro or other outdoor camera to their equipment or clothing to film themselves. However, a UAV companion can track your movements and maintain hovering at a distance a few feet away. “You just take it out, let it take off and it follows you down the hill. You get back on the ski lift and put it back in your backpack,” Parekh explained.
So far, the tests and interactive demos have yielded spectacular results, though the interactions have been for only minutes at a time. “The experience of having the robot track and follow them has, in many cases, [led the participants] to say, unprompted: ‘Oh, it’s like my little dog following me around.’ I think that is an indication of the types of relationships that can happen longer term in the future,” Parekh said. “They’ll be our friends and companions.”
In the long run, Parekh and his company plan to make the autonomous UAV technology a platform on which other developers can build their own applications. In time, Parekh hopes people will develop novel applications for companion UAVs that his company hasn’t even thought of yet.
There is one future use that Parekh said he would be excited to see. “I want my robot to carry my keys, my cellphone and all the random stuff I don’t want to put in my pockets,” he said. “Like a little flying butler following us around everywhere.”