Not sure about you, but I can't get enough of autonomous quadcopters. Earlier this week the US site posted a video showing these tiny flying drones playing the James Bond theme. I was happy to learn it wasn't just a random tech video, but part of a larger TED 2012 talk by Vijay Kumar. The clip above gives us a more info on how they work, as well as demonstrating more of their amazing abilities.
Kumar is Deputy Dean for Education at Penn's School of Engineering and Applied Science in Pennsylvania. He works at the institution's General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) lab. In the talk, he explains how the GRASP-developed drones are capable of doing much more than play music; we get to see them build a basic structure using short metal rods and fly in synchronous formation. Some of the aerial stunts the drones can pull of are quite something -- you won't believe how agile they are.
Each one consumes 15W of power and measures 20.32cm in diameter. They are equipped with a camera and laser range finder, allowing them to build a map of their environment and navigate it correctly. This ability is also demonstrated in the video.
How much smaller can they go? Probably a lot, given time. Once they hit nano-scale... well, that's where the grey goo apocalypse will start.