A new article from New Atlas discusses how researchers have come up with a wearable exoskeleton designed for control of a fixed-wing drone. Named FlyJacket, the device is designed to help beginners control a drone while making intuitive upper body gestures, literally spreading their arms wide like wings. Coupled with a headset, FlyJacket is designed to give pilots a natural feeling of flying, while allowing better control and less discomfort than using conventional drone controls.
The soft exoskeleton includes motion sensors to track the pilot’s movements. It has built-in arm supports to prevent their arms tiring. The pilot wears a virtual reality headset or other head-mounted display so they see what the drone sees from its front-facing camera. To work well, the FlyJacket requires the drone to fly at constant speed.
The researchers say that the fly jacket allows for the same degree of control but achieved greater consistency between experienced and inexperienced pilots. Users also report feeling more immersed with a greater sensation of flying while experiencing less discomfort than when using conventional controls.
FlyJacket apparently fits into a backpack for easy deployment in the field. Its creators envisage use in rescue missions, inspections or for sheer kicks. The device keeps the pilot’s hands-free so the drone’s pilot can use a handheld control to, for example, tag points of interest spotted while flying the drone. This could be as simple as a switch in a glove that is triggered when a finger is touched against the thumb. These tags can be used to map points of interest for future use. Similar gestures could be used to trigger automated actions like taking off or returning home. Continue reading about how to control a drone with your body.