With one possible exception, autonomous quadcopters are not something that you would expect to be inexpensive. A relatively cheap model may indeed be on its way, however. Designed by the Vienna University of Technology’s Virtual Reality Team, the tiny aircraft utilizes the processor and camera of an off-the-shelf smartphone.
The Vienna team, led by chief engineer Annette Mossel, programmed the quadcopter’s navigation software into the processor using an app.
Once in flight, the UAV uses the phone’s camera to identify QR-like coded squares placed on the floor within a room. These allow it to create a map of the room, so it can subsequently find its way around the space on its own. Ultimately, plans call for it to be able to identify actual objects naturally present in a room (such as tables and chairs) using a Kinect-style depth sensor, and create its map using those.