If you’ve ever tried to pilot a drone, you know that it’s a tricky skill that takes practice to do well. As thousands of hilarious YouTube videos prove, it’s laughably easy to end up crashing a drone into a tree or your own face. So the idea of piloting multiple drones simultaneously seems almost impossible. That’s why the new SwarmTouch tactile interface for flying a fleet of nano quadrotor drones is so impressive.
Trying to fly more than one drone at a time using traditional RC controllers is a futile task — there are just too many controls for one person to manipulate. That’s why SwarmTouch, created by researchers from the Intelligent Space Robotics Laboratory at Moscow’s Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology, takes a completely different approach. Instead of a conventional controller, the pilot uses the SwarmTouch wearable “glove” to fly four drones at the same time.
The SwarmTouch glove tracks the pilot’s hand in 3D space, the position of their fingers, and provides vibro-tactile feedback. When their fingers are in a neutral position, the drones maintain a diamond formation. They can walk around and move their hand, and the drones will follow while staying in formation. To alter that formation, the pilot just needs to move their fingers and the drones will move into the new positions. It’s a novel system, and has a lot of potential for more complex drone control than we’re used to seeing.