Design Engineering

Canadian face-detecting drones respond to voice, gesture commands

Mike McLeod   

General Aerospace Aerospace drone Robot robotic system Simon Fraser University uav

Robotic UAV system allows groups of drones to carry out missions simultaneously without a remote control.

Nov-13-SFU-drone-voice-360Researchers at Vancouver’s Simon Frasier University have developed a fleet of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) that accept group voice commands or can be controlled silently through hand gestures. In addition, individual drones recognize which of them their controller is speaking to via on-board face recognition cameras.

Once a drone recognizes it is being singled out, it can be commanded to join or remove itself from the group. Packs of drones can then be given group commands such as take off, land or perform a pre-set mission.

To determine which of the drones is being commanded, each UAV rates the angle of the controller’s face relative to the camera. After comparing each other’s “Face Rank”, the drone with the highest score is then deemed to be the one targeted.


The controller can then tell the targeted drone to join the group by saying “And you” or remove one from the group with “not you”. Alternately, a controller can add drones by waving their right hand. Once grouped, sets of drones can be commanded with “You two” or “You three” to perform the same action simultaneously.

Presented at the the IEEE/RSJ International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems (IROS) in Japan this month, the researchers’ paper (pdf link) says work still needs to be done on the robotic drones face recognition system. In addition, they hope to expand voice commands so groups of drones can be given names (e.g. “You all are team red” etc.)


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