Flying Smartphones: Automated Flight Enabled by Consumer Electronics

Giuseppe Loianno, Gareth Cross, Chao Qu, Yash Mulgaonkar, Joel A. Hesch, Vijay Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Consumer-grade technology seen in cameras and phones has led to the price-performance ratio falling dramatically over the last decade. We are seeing a similar trend in robots that leverage this technology. A recent development is the interest of companies such as Google, Apple, and Qualcomm in high-end communication devices equipped with such sensors as cameras and inertial measurement units (IMUs) and with significant computational capability. Google, for instance, is developing a customized phone equipped with conventional as well as depth cameras. This article explores the potential for the rapid integration of inexpensive consumer-grade electronics with the off-the-shelf robotics technology for automation in homes and offices. We describe how standard hardware platforms (robots, processors, and smartphones) can be integrated through simple software architecture to build autonomous quadrotors that can navigate and map unknown, indoor environments. We show how the quadrotor can be stabilized and controlled to achieve autonomous flight and the generation of three-dimensional (3-D) maps for exploring and mapping indoor buildings with application to smart homes, search and rescue, and architecture. This opens up the possibility for any consumer to take a commercially available robot platform and a smartphone and automate the process of creating a 3-D map of his/her home or office.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7105372
Pages (from-to)24-32
Number of pages9
JournalIEEE Robotics and Automation Magazine
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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