12:12 PM

iPhone App Can Fly Unmanned Aircraft

Boeing, MIT test technology to control mini-drones that may eventually be used by the U.S. military.

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Researchers from Boeing and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) have created a prototype application that allows someone to fly a miniature unmanned aircraft from an iPhone.

Eventually, the technology may be applied to remotely control unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) such as drones used by the U.S. military in combat and reconnaissance missions.

Boeing Research & Technology and student researchers at MIT's Humans and Automation Lab have successfully tested an iPhone application that uses the device's touch interface to navigate a mini-UAV from across the country as part of a Boeing project called Micro Aerial Vehicle Visualization of Unexplored Environments, or MAV-VUE, according to Boeing.

[ Not only can you use an iPhone to control a UAV, you also can Run Your Data Center From An iPhone ]

An engineer from the aerospace company, George Windsor, successfully flew the UAV above a baseball field on the MIT campus in Cambridge, Mass., via an iPhone in the company's Seattle office. The application is part of Boeing's efforts to team with industry and education partners to develop better and easier ways to control UAVs, among other technological innovations.

Boeing said the benefits of remote control of mini-drones via an iPhone or another smartphone are that the applications can be used to control UAVs for dirty or dangerous tasks, or during long missions that would be tedious for a human at the controls of an aircraft.

Joshua Downs, a human factors specialist with Boeing Research & Technology and the Boeing technical leader of the MAV-VUE project, in a statement described use-case scenarios for the application.

One envisioned a soldier using a mobile app-controlled, lightweight UAV for a better view of a battlefield, and another proposed scenarios in which firefighters or rescue workers can use UAVs to quickly and efficiently get a better view of disaster areas.

The federal government--the military in particular--has been exploring innovative ways to use mobile applications on iPhones and Android-based devices in various combat and reconnaissance scenarios.

One program, Connecting Soldiers to Digital Applications, gives soldiers in the field mobile devices loaded with custom applications that will be helpful in combat, while another called Relevant ISR to the Edge sends real-time intelligence information to soldier handheld devices during a military mission.

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