Like with many technologies, drones and quadcopters are getting cheaper and cheaper as they get smarter and more capable. And as Dr. Vijay Kumar and a group of researchers from the University of Pennsylvania recently demonstrated, the average consumer smartphone is now more than powerful enough to serve as an autonomous droneā€™s brains.

The quadcopter seen taking off and hovering here is carrying and connected to a Qualcomm Snapdragon-powered Android smartphone running a custom app the team developed. And all of the droneā€™s autonomous navigation, vision-based collision avoidance, and flight stabilization is being handled by the phone, its built-in camera, and the app.


The drone itself is mostly just electric motors, wiring, and batteries, which means it can be built, and sold to consumers, at a much lower price point. The one obvious catch, though, is that youā€™re entrusting your expensive smartphone to an autonomous flying quadcopter which could very well have a less-than-pleasant landing at some point. But thatā€™s nothing a little bubble wrap canā€™t protect against, right? [IEEE Spectrum]