Quadcopter pair plays table tennis without the table

This pair of quad-rotor helicopters does a better job of keeping a ping-pong ball in the air than we could. The two flying drones are performing inside of the flying machine arena, a 1000 cubic meter indoor space surrounded by nets with a foam-padded floor. This makes for a prototype-friendly space, protecting the copters from hard landings and the experimenters from the maiming that might accompany a runaway robot.

This project is headed by researcher [Raffaello D'Andrea]. Previously, we’ve seen his work on a distributed flight array. This time around he’s not working with configurable modules, but completely separate units. Don’t miss the video after the break to see several iterations used to keep a ball in the air. Each bot has the head of a tennis racket mounted at its center. Throw a ball at them and they’ll to what they can to prevent it touching the ground.

While we’re on the topic, we caught a story on NPR about hobby drones. Sounds like their growing popularity has caught the attention of the non-hacker community and restrictions might be on the way. So what are you waiting for? Get out there and make your own flyer while it’s still the wild-west of personal drones.

[Thanks Ketin]


  1. Wizzard says:

    No net can contain these once a runaway robot WANTS to run away or maim it’s experimenters, and is not merely doing so accidentally.

    Awesome video, too.

  2. Dmill says:

    Okay, cool factor is way up there!Love it!

  3. CutThroughStuffGuy says:

    I think that for the time being, a net is going to thwart even the most savvy, completely run amok AI that is driven to kill all humans flying robot.

    The real question is why more restrictions?

  4. captain says:

    Soon the government will want to “regulate” (i.e. tax or license) these drones. To protect us from terrorism.

    Yes, like Al-Queda gets their ideas from sites like Hackaday.

    Really, Osama?

  5. wosser says:

    Paraphrase from “The Amp Hour” (.com) …

    “””All it will take is one idiot with an RC drone to fly over Norad and these quad copters will be banned forever.”””

    Plus I think it looks a bit CGI, but maybe that’s the fluorescent lighting.

  6. zool says:

    maybe would work better if they used ping pong paddles instead of racquets

    but still probably better than some people can do heh

  7. bill says:

    this made me think of a real life brick breaker game

  8. Mike says:

    I for one welcome our new ping pong overlords.

  9. taraCkaans says:

    One of the coolest vids I’ve seen in a while!

  10. CutThroughStuffGuy says:

    Tennis for two Quadcopters.

  11. qcop says:

    Don’t forget that they are not acting fully autonomously.
    There are a bunch of motion capture cams spread around the arena that feed positional data to them.
    That’s how they know where they are and how they “see” the ball.

  12. Steve says:

    Vicon systems are cheating.

  13. Andy Goth says:

    Great Quadcopter photo I took at MAGFest 9:

  14. Ben says:

    I think I just had a nerdgasm

  15. anti-fanboi says:

    Is it just me or did the one that played the winning shot smirk?

  16. Grovenstien says:

    @ Steve I agree, although very useful for data acquisition a Vicon system is cheating. I cant wait to see this without the stablisers on!

  17. twopartepoxy says:

    if this is real, then hats-off to these guys, realyl impressive.

  18. Tom says:

    I think it’s gonna be a while before this type of stuff can be done without an external vision system. Hopefully Moore’s law’ll hold out long enough to give us some self contained evil quad-copters

  19. Does this remind anyone of a certain (probably only out by a few years) sci-fi film featuring Arnie?

  20. Swankie says:

  21. dan fruzzetti says:

    They look so eager and lifelike in motion

  22. Spork says:

    @Tom and Grovenstien
    At the end of the video there is this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcgvWhu8Arc&annotation_id=annotation_927089&feature=iv

    In that video they show a quadcopter doing a loop without the Vicon system. — So really the acrobatics/stabilization are already good, they’re mainly using the Vicon to calibrate them and ball tracking for the tennis..

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