Flying robots that can think for themselves, work together and venture into hostile environments are being developed by engineers at Sheffield University.
The research paves the way for robots to work intelligently alongside humans in ways that are currently familiar only through science fiction films.
The robots could play important roles in crisis situations such as search and rescue missions, or operate in environments where it would be dangerous for humans to work.
Using simple flying robots called Quadcopters, the Sheffield team has created software that enables the robot to learn about its surroundings using a forward facing camera mounted at the front.
“We are used to science fiction robots being able to act independently, recognise objects and individuals and make decisions,” said Professor Sandor Veres.
“In the real world although robots can be extremely intelligent individually, their ability to co-operate and interact with each other and with humans is still very limited.
“As we develop robots for use in space or to send into nuclear environments – places where humans cannot easily go – the goal will be for them to understand their surroundings and make decisions based on that.”