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One of the challenges faced by drones is avoiding obstacles, especially when they move quickly. it typically takes from 20 to 40 milliseconds for the drone to process the image captured by its camera and react. 

A new drone demonstrated recently can detect and avoid fast-moving objects. This is a step towards drones that can fly faster in harsh environments, accomplishing more in less time.

Researchers from the University of Zurich have equipped a quadcopter (a drone with four propellers) with special cameras and algorithms that reduced its reaction time down to a few milliseconds – enough to avoid a ball thrown at it from a short distance. The results, published in the journal Science Robotics, can make drones more effective in situations such as the aftermath of a natural disaster, according to uzh.ch.

Davide Scaramuzza, who leads the Robotics and Perception Group at the University of Zurich as well as the NCCR Robotics Search and Rescue Grand Challenge said: “For search and rescue applications, such as after an earthquake, time is very critical, so we need drones that can navigate as fast as possible in order to accomplish more within their limited battery life.”  “However, by navigating fast drones are also more exposed to the risk of colliding with obstacles, and even more if these are moving. We realized that a novel type of camera, called Event Camera, are a perfect fit for this purpose”.

Watch the new technology: