Robocopter plays Jingle Bells on the piano

Researchers at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology’s Institute for Dynamic Systems and Control have found a novel way of wishing people a merry Christmas.

They’ve installed a piano in their Flying Machine Arena robot test-bed and taught flying robots to pick out ‘Jingle Bells’ by bouncing up and down on the keys.

“One of our little quadrocopters, ‘Echo’, took some time off from her busy little schedule one evening and decided to play a little something for the holidays,” says the team.

The Flying Machine Arena is used both as a test center in its own right and to validate other experiments at the insitute.

The 10 x 10 x 10m³ room is largely surrounded with nets and has a foam-covered floor to minimise the effects of crashes.

The quadrotors themselves are based on the ‘Hummingbird’ quadrotor made by Ascending Technologies. The institute has replaced their on-board controls with custom-made electronics developed in-house.

The team says this allows greater control over the vehicle’s dynamics, faster motion, and the ability to develop controllers that directly control the vehicle motors.

As you can see from the YouTube video, some of the quadrotors work better than others – and the crash-mat really does come in handy.