WHO:

A team of researchers at Delft University of Technology has developed a drone that flies autonomously using neuromorphic image processing and control based on the workings of animal brains.

Photo of the “neuromorphic drone” flying over a flower pattern. It illustrates the visual inputs the drone receives from the neuromorphic camera in the corners. Red indicates pixels getting darker, green indicates pixels getting brighter.

WHAT:

Animal brains use less data and energy compared to current deep neural networks running on graphics processing units (GPUs). Biological neurons process information asynchronously and mostly communicate via electrical pulses called spikes. Since sending such spikes costs energy, the brain minimizes spiking, leading to sparse processing. Inspired by these properties of animal brains, engineers are developing new, neuromorphic processors. These new processors allow to run spiking neural networks and promise to be much faster and more energy efficient. The Delft team’s drone uses neuromorphic vision and control for autonomous flight. Specifically, they developed a spiking neural network that processes the signals from a neuromorphic camera and outputs control commands that determine the drone’s pose and thrust. Thanks to the network, the drone can perceive and control its own motion in all directions. The results are extraordinary — during flight the drone’s deep neural network processes data up to 64 times faster and consumes three times less energy than when running on a GPU.

WHERE:

Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands

WHY:

The neuromorphic approach results in AI that runs faster and more efficiently, allowing deployment on much smaller autonomous robots. Neuromorphic AI could enable all autonomous robots to be more intelligent.

WHEN:

Further developments of this technology may enable the leap for drones to become as small, agile, and smart as flying insects or birds.

For more information, contact Marc de Kool at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ; +31 06-1003-8065.