Arizona State University finds a way to control drones using brainwaves

The brain is a complex processing unit which contains approximately 200-billion neutrons. These neutrons fire thousands of electrical signals per second. As complex as the brain is, we still can’t telepathically move things with our minds, until today.

Director of Human-Orientated Robotics and Control Lab, Panagiotis Artemiadis who’s also the assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the School for Engineering of Matter has found a way to successfully control drones using a wireless interface.

The controller uses a skull-cap connected to a computer, which is outfitted with 128 electrodes. The cap reads the brainwaves you produce when instructing parts of your body to move.

Researchers like Artemiadis have achieved this by successfully marking the areas of the brain which light up when giving a command, they know which part of the brain controls specific thoughts. Using this information, his wireless interface can successfully control up to four small drones at the same time, which couldn’t have successfully been done with a single joystick.

Flying the drones requires the wearer to envision them moving or performing certain activities

Moving them requires the wearer to envision the drones moving or performing certain activities, this feat took Artemiadis almost seven years to bring to life. Starting in 2009 Artemiadis has been working on a “brain-to-machine” interface since he earned his doctorate.

The project was initially started and funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency of the US Department of Defense and the Air Force. Air Force Pilots stress tested the systems, however they were worried about the repercussions there’d be if they lost concentration and thought about something else for a second.

That’s the ultimate problem with “brain-to-machine” technologies, fatigue and stress are highly problematic as a single deviation from a “clear mind” can cause you to lose control of whatever you’re moving. Another issues faced with “brain-to-machine” is the fact that since brain signals change daily, this meant that the machine had to be re-calibrated everyday.

Artemiadis is still far from giving up, his next step will involve multiple pilots controlling multiple drones to further refine his project. His hopes is that these type’s of swarm drones can be used in complex operations such as search-and rescue missions.

Hopefully once we can master a clear mind, can we then be fully capable of harnessing this technology.

Featured image: Gabriel Garcia Marengo via Flickr



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