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Silicon Valley Takes a (Careful) Step Toward Autonomous Flying


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Emergency workers testing a autonomous helicopter.

Several Silicon Valley startups are developing technology that can be adapt small helicopters and other passenger aircraft to allow for autonomous flight.

Credit: Jason Henry/The New York Times

Several Silicon Valley startups are developing technology that can be applied to small helicopters and other passenger aircraft to allow for autonomous flight.

The technology, which includes hardware and software, is based on many of the same technologies that power driverless cars, such as 360-degree cameras and radar sensors built into the nose of the aircraft.

In some ways, autonomous aircraft are easier to build than driverless cars because the aircraft operate in wide-open spaces, as opposed to narrow roads that are full of obstacles.

SkyRyse is building a helicopter equipped with a radar system and other sensors that provide a detailed view of the surroundings even in adverse weather. These sensors capture enormous amounts of data describing what the helicopter encounters from takeoff to landing, and how the pilot responds.

SkyRyse researchers are using this data to recreate flight conditions in a virtual reality environment, and developing systems that can navigate those simulations.

From The New York Times
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