MIT Drones Can Switch Between Flying and Driving in Urban Settings

Robots that are good at one mode of transportation generally tend to be bad at another. Airborne drones are fast and agile, but often have too limited of a battery life to travel for long distances. Ground vehicles are more energy efficient, but slower and less mobile. MIT researchers aiming to develop robots that can both maneuver around on land and take to the skies. introduce a system of eight quadcopter drones that can fly and drive through a city-like setting with parking spots, no-fly zones, and landing pads. This project builds on previous work they did in developing a monkey-inspired robot that could crawl, grasp, and fly - but not autonomously. To address this, the team developed 'path-planning' algorithms to make sure that the drones don't collide. To make them capable of driving, the team put two small motors with wheels on the bottom of each drone. In simulations, the robots could fly for 90 meters or drive for 252 meters, before their batteries ran out.