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Flying robot swarm plays James Bond theme on real instruments (video)

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The nano quadrocopter drones from the University of Pennsylvania's GRASP lab perform the theme to James Bond in this video.


We've seen some pretty impressive tricks from the University of Pennsylvania's swarm of quadrocopter drones, but nothing prepared us for this. In its time off from navigating obstacle courses, formation flying, building structures, and literally flying through hoops, the swarm managed to pick up some impressive musical chops, bringing us this flawless rendition of the James Bond theme. The tiny robots all play actual musical instruments, too — either by landing on organ keys, dragging a stick across a harp, or beating a drum with a mechanical arm.

The trick is actually accomplished by filling the "stage" with infrared lights and cameras that capture the locations of the individual drones. The team then sets a series of 3D waypoints — say a C-sharp note on the organ — as well as times that the waypoints (notes) need to be hit. What's really incredible here is that the drones have to plot their own individual courses — the UPenn website reads "figuring out how to get from waypoint to waypoint most efficiently and without disturbing their neighbors is up to the robots."