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Drones Can Almost See in the Dark


event camera image

Unlike their conventional counterparts, event cameras only report changes in brightness for each pixel.

Credit: University of Zurich

Researchers at the University of Zurich (UZH) and NCCR Robotics have taught flying drones to navigate with an eye-inspired camera, which could create a path toward operating in low-light conditions. The drones' event cameras do not need to capture full light on the entire retina to acquire a clear perception. The devices only note changes in brightness for each pixel, ensuring sharp vision even during fast motion or in low-light settings. The researchers also have designed software to efficiently process the cameras' output.

"This research is the first of its kind in the fields of artificial intelligence and robotics, and will soon enable drones to fly autonomously and faster than ever, including in low-light environments," says UZH professor Davide Scaramuzza.

He believes the software can function reliably outdoors, while noting, "our recent work has already demonstrated that combining a standard camera with an event-based camera improves the accuracy and reliability of the system."

From University of Zurich
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