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Flying Robot Echolocates Like a Bat to Avoid Hitting Walls

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This drone uses a buzzer and microphone set-up to navigate by echolocation.

A robot using the echolocation technique can make a map of its environment and localize itself at the same time.

Credit: Frederike Dumbgen et al.

Frederike Dümbgen and colleagues at Canada's University of Toronto and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Lausanne have equipped a flying robot to use bat-like echolocation to map its surroundings using a simple microphone and speaker.

The robot’s speaker emits sound bursts infused with a range of frequencies, which bounce off walls and are recorded by the microphone when they come back.

An algorithm then uses interference patterns caused by the sound waves to model the environment's surfaces.

The researchers tested the system on a drone rigged with a buzzer and four microphones, and on a wheeled robot with a built-in speaker and microphone. The drone could map walls with up to 2-centimeter (0.7-inch) accuracy from 0.5 meters away when stationary, and with 8-centimeter (3.1-inch) accuracy when airborne.

From New Scientist
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