Drones go gaming

Drones Go Gaming

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As always, the 2016 Consumer Electronics Show (CES) had a host of new products on display, from 4K UHD televisions to flaming-fast hoverboards. Of course, there were lots of drones on hand and the FAA was there as well, letting everyone in the United States know that any drone over 0.55 lb. needed to be registered. Fortunately, many exhibitors were delivering drones that were under this limit.

Fig. 11. Skyrocket Toys’ Hover Racer has IR emitters and receivers spaced around its periphery to target and detect other Hover Racers.

Skyrocket Toys' Hover Racer (Fig. 1) is one of those. It features many of the characteristics of other micro-drones, including limited flight time,  impact-resistant uni-body design, and low cost. It has six-axis digital stabilization and variable modes of flight-control sensitivity.

The Hover Racer can be flown individually, but it is also targeting the gaming aspect of quadcopters that others are pursuing as well. In this case, there will be multiple quadcopters in flight at the same time.

The Hover Racer comes equipped with five sets of IR emitters and receivers that target and detect other Hover Racers. Skyrocket Toys provides IR-emitting pylons that can be detected by the drone’s downward-looking sensors (Fig. 2). These can be used to market a course and help drones determine their relative position. This allows an app to track the fliers if they are running a race course where each pylon must be passed in the proper order. The system is designed to handle up to four racers.

Fig. 22. The pylons have an IR emitter allowing the drone to track its relative position.

The other sensors can be used when drones are dogfighting. The emitters run continuously and there is a cone that is illuminated so other drones can detect when they are within range of a cone and which drone is targeting them. The system can be used to simulate a range of weapons and sensors. For example, the system does not have to always alert a player immediately when a drone is detected. A second player can act as an RIO (radar intercept officer) since the Hover Racer can link to two mobile devices at one time. This can help as the flight environment becomes busier. Flying can be hard enough.

Skyrocket Toys’ intent is ambitious. They were showing the hardware at CES, which is impressive, especially at the price point they are targeting. The Hover Racer is a neat toy, but it highlights the rapid change in sensors and control systems. Larger and more expensive systems can incorporate more complex sensors, but it is amazing what is packed into this small quadcopter.

Higher-end systems at CES were sporting multiple cameras and other range-finder technology to prevent collisions and improve mapping. Skyrocket Toys’ Sky Viper is a more conventional quadcopter that streams and records HD video.

Quadcopters are already being used in battlebot-style games, but Hover Racer is designed to be a bit more sporting and less destructive. Look for even more alternatives to fill this niche in the future.

So, fire up your Hover Racer and let the games begin.

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