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Drones may be controlled by gestures
by Staff Writers
Cambridge, Mass. (UPI) Mar 15, 2012

disclaimer: image is for illustration purposes only

Drone aircraft taxiing on a runway may someday be controlled by ground personnel using just standard gestures, U.S. researchers say.

Drones can already land autonomously on runway or aircraft carrier flight decks, but humans control them during taxiing.

With piloted aircraft, navy flight-deck personnel use a set of hand gestures to instruct them in operations like cutting their engines, to, opening weapon bay doors or moving to a refueling bay.

To see if these gestures could be recognized by a computer on a drone, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology wrote an algorithm to analyze video clips of a person performing flight-deck gestures.

The system recorded and analyzed body, arm, wrist, hand and finger positions and was able to recognize a flight-deck command gesture 76 percent of the time, NewScientist.com reported Thursday.

The researchers said they are working to improve those recognition levels.

Those in the drone industry said they're impressed.

"I can't see why this wouldn't work ultimately," said Peter van Blyenburgh, head of UVS International, a trade group involved in pilotless drone aircraft.

"The gestures are clearly defined -- an image sensor should be able to pick them up."

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