This University of Michigan student team developed a way to control a drone with a new kind of controller…
We work with students of all ages — from outreach to early elementary, to hands-on demonstrations, labs, and even research with students from fifth grade to… well, grad school and beyond!
We wanted to share this novel and exciting project which is the result of a group of Aerospace Engineering students who had an exciting question: Can we fly a plane, or at least a drone, with our thoughts?
It wasn’t an easy project, but with very minimal support on our end, they were able to get a prototype up and running within just the few weeks allotted to the project!
But how does it work?
The students took advantage of two signals that you can record using the Heart and Brain SpikerBox – First, EEG (Electroencephalograms, or brain waves) could be used to “wake up” the drone (take off / ready) by opening your eyes, or “put it to sleep” (land / standby) by closing your eyes. This works because, when you record from your occipital lobe, alpha waves are present when your eyes are closed, and “disappear” when they are open – a phenomenon which the students leveraged for their “On/Off” switch.
Then they used EOG signals (Electrooculograms, from your eyes!) to tell the drone to move in different directions depending on if you are looking up, down, left, or right. This is possible thanks to the different electrical signals recorded when you look in different directions.
They were able to do this in real time, creating a very creative control scheme that could be applied to other devices as well. The sky is the limit for the future of this project! Or maybe not just the sky… maybe space isn’t even a limit anymore for students these days!
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