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European Space Agency wants you and your drone to help it dock spaceships

New, 7 comments drone 1020 (esa) drone 1020 (esa)

Wondering what to do with that Parrot.AR Drone collecting dust on your shelf? Why not help scientists at the European Space Agency (ESA) work on automated spaceship docking methods? The agency recently released an augmented reality app for iOS called Astro Drone (video below) that lets users simulate docking their Parrot.ARs with a virtual ISS. The (hopefully) millions of hours of resulting sensor data will go toward ESA’s early work on creating artificial intelligence that can dock a spacecraft.

Players get points in Astro Drone for docking in a way that’s "rapid but controlled," with bonuses for correct orientation and low speed on the final approach. According to Guido de Croon, a research team fellow at ESA, the result of the crowdsourced game data "could be much more autonomous spacecraft that can reliably maneuver, dock, or land themselves." And if you're worried about privacy, de Croon says that no GPS information or personal information about the pilot is collected — ESA is only interested in velocity readings and the internal math the drone uses for navigation. In any case, it's for science, the game looks like a good time, and it’s probably more productive than just using your drone to terrorize your family.