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Haifa Students Build Robotic Helicopter

Students at the Technion University in Haifa have built a lightweight hovercraft for use in special missions, observation and surveillance.
By Malkah Fleisher
First Publish: 12/1/2009, 10:03 AM / Last Update: 12/1/2009, 10:06 AM

Shaul Merkovitch, Spokesperson of Technion University

Students from the Faculty of Computer Science at the Technion University in Haifa have succeeded in building a lightweight hovercraft for use in special missions, observation and surveillance. The appearance of the mid-air drone was publicized on Monday in Homepage, the Technion computer sciences faculty newsletter.

"Skimmer," a 2.2-pound miniature robotic helicopter, can navigate and photograph independently for 30-40 minutes, even entering the windows of buildings to do its job, before flying out.

Professor Ehud Rivlin, who is leading the faculty's project, said students from the contributed to information processing and computer optics. "With different sensors we added to the skimmer, we gave it the ability to distinguish obstacles to prevent accidents, while maintaining height and orientation with the use of a three-dimensional map," Prof. Rivlin said.

Technion says Skimmer's camera is currently in its belly, but researchers are working to install additional cameras to allow photography from 360 degrees around the craft.

"Adding a handheld Pocket PC allowed us to increase the processing capacity of Skimmer" added Arel Uziel of the Graduate Department of Computer Science at the Technion, who participated in the development. "The computer controls Skimmer via a control box located on the platform and is responsible for steering. This enables wireless communications with ground stations for instructions on air flight and the transfer of images using computer communications capabilities."

Also leading the project are Professor Pini Gurfil of the Aerospace Engineering Faculty, intelligent systems lab engineer Ronen Keidar, and hardware engineer Sergei Danilean. The project is funded by the Dvora Foundation and the autonomous systems center at the Technion.