Next up – your own iPhone controlled drone

A day doesn’t go by where we aren’t pummeled with new apps and uses for the iPhone. Some are good, some suck rotten lemons, some are stupid and then there are those that are admittedly just a little on the strange side.

The idea of having an app that could control one of the hellfire missile carrying drones that are the current favorite of the U.S. Military brings some pretty images to mind. It could give a whole new meaning to things like road rage – someone pisses you off on the road and the next thing they know they have a drone, with missiles primed, flying at them controlled by some deranged idiot with an iPhone and a grudge.

While that scenario might be a little outrageous the idea of controlling drones using iPhones is actually a project in progress by MIT Professor Missy Cummings and her crew of 30 iPhone toting students.

Actually, using an iPhone was her undergrads’ idea — because experimenting with it as a basis for a new robot controller meant she’d have to buy them all iPhones of their own. “We had the idea in June,” Cummings told Danger Room. “In six weeks, we went from the idea to a real flight test,” using MIT’s indoor robot range. (See video.) The total cost? $5,000 for a new, commercially available, quad-rotor robot — plus the cost of iPhones for her crew.

The iPhone bot controller is basically just an app, like any other. It relies on only the iPhone’s existing gear, and the phone can still be used for regular calls, web-browsing, texting, etc. HAL’s bot-wrangling app sends GPS coordinates to the robot, which navigates around using its own, built-in “sense-and-avoid” capabilities. Along the way, the bot can stream video or snapshots back to the iPhone.

Source : Wired – Danger Room :: New Use for Your iPhone: Controlling Drones

The professor’s favorite non military use of this idea?

Cummings’ own favorite: “Being able to launch one out of the window and fly it down to the Starbucks, to tell me how many people are in line, so I know when to get coffee.”