Skip to Content
Smart cities

This drone learned to fly through streets by studying driverless-car data

January 26, 2018

Simple sensors and stripped-down AI could enable drones to zip through cities more safely.

The problem: Autonomous cars use heavy sensors and computers to work out where they are and how to act. It would be good if drones could fly autonomously in a similar way, but they can’t haul much weight.

A solution: IEEE Spectrum reports that University of Zurich researchers built a lightweight AI that gives drones some autonomy. DroNet AI, which was trained on data from autonomous cars and GoPro-toting bicycles, runs on a simple processor. It analyzes images from a camera to provide speed and steering commands.

What it does: Drones using the software can fly through city streets by themselves—following road markings and avoiding collisions with obstacles.

Why it matters: If we’re to have drone deliveries hit city skies, it would be good if the aircraft could properly navigate by themselves. This research takes us a step closer to that.

Keep Reading

Most Popular

It’s time to retire the term “user”

The proliferation of AI means we need a new word.

The problem with plug-in hybrids? Their drivers.

Plug-in hybrids are often sold as a transition to EVs, but new data from Europe shows we’re still underestimating the emissions they produce.

Sam Altman says helpful agents are poised to become AI’s killer function

Open AI’s CEO says we won’t need new hardware or lots more training data to get there.

A brief, weird history of brainwashing

L. Ron Hubbard, Operation Midnight Climax, and stochastic terrorism—the race for mind control changed America forever.

Stay connected

Illustration by Rose Wong

Get the latest updates from
MIT Technology Review

Discover special offers, top stories, upcoming events, and more.

Thank you for submitting your email!

Explore more newsletters

It looks like something went wrong.

We’re having trouble saving your preferences. Try refreshing this page and updating them one more time. If you continue to get this message, reach out to us at with a list of newsletters you’d like to receive.