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Mind-controlled helicopter flies on brainwaves

Press Trust of India  |  New York 

Scientists have developed a mind-controlled system that allows users to fly a model helicopter with just their thoughts.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis created a brain-computer interface - a system that allows the brain to communicate directly with an external device - that lets participants control the path of a flying object, known as a quadcopter, by thinking about specific movements.

The interface requires users to wear an electro-encephalography (EEG) cap with attached electrodes that pick up signals from the brain, 'LiveScience' reported.

When participants think about a specific movement - up, down, right or left, for instance - neurons in the brain's motor cortex produce tiny electric signals that are then sent to a computer, said Bin He, a biomedical engineer and the project's lead scientist.

"The signal coming from his brain is being picked up by these sensors and then decoded and sent through a Wi-Fi system to control [the] flying quadcopter," He said in a video by the US National Science Foundation.

"The computer is going to read that digital signal and do all the processing and extract out the brain signal and control [the] quadcopter," He said.

He and colleagues are testing the system on students, who first undergo 10 to 20 hours of training by using their thoughts to virtually fly an aircraft over a computer-generated model of the university's campus.

Next, the participants controlled the quadcopter with their minds and tried to fly it through a real obstacle course made of balloons.

The technology could be used to help people with disabilities lead more independent lives, researchers said.

First Published: Wed, February 12 2014. 16:01 IST