If you’ve been reading the site for a while, you’ve probably noticed that we tend to geek out over drones. And why wouldn’t we? Speaking for every kid who’s spent hours with RC cars, the ability to fly a hovercraft into air space with an onboard camera is pretty damn cool. It’s also pretty risky.
These devices can be a real danger if you don’t know how to properly use them; that’s why Microsoft has developed a flight simulator for drones, the Aerial Informatics and Robotics Platform. With Microsoft’s open source simulator software, users can test their chops flying a drone, without putting anyone or anything in harm’s way. The virtual simulator helps designers test and train autonomous machines in realistic conditions, while keeping actual drone prototypes from being damaged.
Microsoft says that it hopes to help the democratization of robotics with the move, which will help individuals, researchers, and companies, with the testing of systems that would otherwise be impossible, or too resource intensive for them to do with an actual model on their own. The simulation allows for a number of different factors that would effect flight patterns, including speed, wind, and
An interesting thing to not about this simulator, is that it’s not exclusively designed for testing drone hardware. Microsoft also sees the technology helping with computer vision and machine learning code.
Team leader Ashish Kapoor has explained that this is not meant to replace real-world physical testing, but is instead, to be viewed more as a compliment. The systems is designed to practice repetitive or hard-to-reproduce situations. Rather than needing to launch drones with only a few months of flight experience, the simulator allows developers to launch virtual drones with the data equivalent of years of flight experience.
Microsoft has put the entire tool free of charge on GitHub.