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

A Roomba recorded a woman on the toilet. How did screenshots end up on Facebook?

Robot vacuum companies say your images are safe, but a sprawling global supply chain for data from our devices creates risk.

A startup says it’s begun releasing particles into the atmosphere, in an effort to tweak the climate

Make Sunsets is already attempting to earn revenue for geoengineering, a move likely to provoke widespread criticism.

10 Breakthrough Technologies 2023

Every year, we pick the 10 technologies that matter the most right now. We look for advances that will have a big impact on our lives and break down why they matter.

The viral AI avatar app Lensa undressed me—without my consent

My avatars were cartoonishly pornified, while my male colleagues got to be astronauts, explorers, and inventors.

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.