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Chip ­pgrade Helps Miniature Drones Navigate

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The new computer chip (shown here with a quarter for scale) helps miniature drones navigate in flight.

Researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have reduced the size and power requirements of a computer chip to help honeybee-sized drones navigate.

Credit: Vivienne Sze et al.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers have reduced the size and power consumption of a computer chip they designed in 2017 to help honeybee-sized drones navigate.

The new chip, called Navion, measures only 20 square millimeters, and consumes just 24 milliwatts of electricity to process camera images in real time at up to 171 frames a second, as well as taking inertial measurements to determine the drone’s location and orientation.

The team says the chip can be integrated into nanodrones as small as a fingernail to help the devices navigate, especially in remote or inaccessible places where global positioning system (GPS) data is unavailable.

The researchers were able to shrink the chip’s size and power requirement by rebuilding it from the ground up, instead of reconfiguring its earlier design.

From MIT News
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