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A sort of symbiotic autonomous system…

Spark, the smallest drone from DJI is now available to order at a reasonably affordable price. Credit: DJI

Every week a new drone is announced and although most of them look alike (at least to my untrained eye) a clear trend seems to emerge: they are getting easier and easier to interact with.

DJI has announced, and it is ready for order, SPARK, the smallest drone in their product line, at a price just below 500$, 499$ of course. What picked my interest is the possibility of controlling it by gesture, making it a very simple drone to interact with.

As you can see by watching the clip you can hold Spark on the palm of your hand, press a button on its belly with your finger to activate it and wait for a second to let it recognise your face. Then you can gently move your hand up signalling the drone it is time to take off.

It will keep looking at you and will watch your hand to take orders. Wave your hand left and it will fly left, move it upwards and it will rise further high…. Make the gesture to come back and it will fly back to land on your palm.  Pretty neat.

Of course, you can control it more accurately and make it fly away from you using your cell phone as a remote (it can communicate via radio link or by creating a WiFi hot spot if it has to fly in your vicinity). You can also see what its camera is seeing by using Google goggles for an immersive, on board experience.

The possibility of having a seamless gesture interaction brings this drone into the area of symbiotic autonomous systems -SAS- (although we are quite far from controlling it with our brainwaves…), an area that FDC as started to promote with its SAS Initiative.

Spark has, it is now becoming a standard feature for drones, an autonomous obstacle avoidance systems. I would expect that by the end of the decade we will have drones that can fly inside a home. Just imagine using a drone to take a look around over the furniture when you are searching for something. Well, I know, it looks crazy but we are already doing everyday plenty of things that would have seemed crazy just few years ago.

I am using my smartphones to take measures, to look under a bed for a lost coin, to track my son position, to check if a line on the wall is level for nailing some frames, to read the fine lines on a document, to open the room door at some hotels. Yes sometimes I still use it to make a call, but that’s marginal.

About Roberto Saracco

Roberto Saracco fell in love with technology and its implications long time ago. His background is in math and computer science. He's currently the Chair of the Symbiotic Autonomous Systems Initiative of IEEE-FDC. Until April 2017 he led the EIT Digital Italian Node and up to September 2018 he was the Head of the EIT Digital Industrial Doctoral School. Previously, up to December 2011, he was the Director of the Telecom Italia Future Centre in Venice, looking at the interplay of technology evolution, economics and society. At the turn of the century he led a World Bank-Infodev project to stimulate entrepreneurship in Latin America. He is a senior member of IEEE where he leads the Industry Advisory Board within the Future Directions Committee. He teaches a Master course on Technology Forecasting and Market impact at the University of Trento. He has published over 100 papers in journals and magazines and 14 books. He writes a daily blog,  http://sites.ieee.org/futuredirections/category/blog/, with commentary on innovation in various technology and market areas.

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