Engineers reportedly developed a new virtual reality training ground for drones.

To date, training and testing drones to fly can be a costly and time-consuming task with engineers having to repair and replace parts before training continues. However, this might soon change with the development of a new virtual reality training ground for drones.

A team of engineers from the Massachusets of Institute and Technology created a VR training system for drones. In the VR environment, drones can “see” a rich, complicated environment while, in reality, they are flying in empty environments with no obstacles.

Dubbed the Flight Goggles, the new system could reduce the number of crashes that the drones normally experience in actual flight training activities. Aside from that, the system could also serve as a testbed for numerous environments or situations in which the engineers might want to test their drones.

“We think this is a game-changer in the development of drone technology, for drones that go fast,” Sertac Karaman, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics at MIT, said. “If anything, the system can make autonomous vehicles more responsive, faster, and more efficient.”

The creation of the VR training ground was allegedly inspired by competitive drone racing–which, if you haven’t watched, is pretty intense. In this sport, the remote-controlled drones are driven by humans through intense obstacle courses. These races might be small in size, but they have all of the intensity of Star Wars pod racing.

“In the next two or three years, we want to enter a drone racing competition with an autonomous drone, and beat the best human player,” Karaman added which means that they need to build a new training regiment for their drones.

The team’s virtual training system is composed of a motion capture system with an image rendering program and electronics that would enable the team to immediately process the images and send them to the drone.

The image rendering system would enable Karaman and his team to draw up photorealistic scenes like apartment loft or living room and transmit the virtual images to the drone as it’s flying around the empty place.

“The drone will be flying in an empty room, but will be ‘hallucinating’ a completely different environment, and will learn in that environment,” Karaman explained.

Karaman and his team will be presenting their virtual reality training system at the IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation next week.

Aside from training drones, where else do you think this new virtual reality training ground could be used?

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