If, for some reason, you’ve ever imagined that it would be easier to control a drone with your body instead of a remote, it’s now possible to put the theory to the test. The École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne University in Switzerland has developed the FlyJacket, an upper-body soft exoskeleton that lets wearers steer a UAV while using a VR helmet.
As you can see in the video below, the FlyJacket’s motion-tracking sensors follow a wearer’s movements, which control the drone. According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, bending your torso back and forward controls the craft’s pitch, while bending sideways turns the drone. Other functions, such as taking off, are performed using a smart glove. Researchers are working on adding speed controls and other commands to the suit.
Researchers say their suit is more intuitive for controlling a drone than using a traditional remote with sticks. It even comes with removable arm supports so your outstretched limbs don’t get tired after a long flying session.
IEEE notes the similarities between the FlyJacket and Birdly, which simulates flying through an Oculus Rift headset, a pair of wooden wings, and a fan blasting air in your face while you’re lying down. But the FlyJacket is a lot cheaper, more portable, and doesn’t require much training to use.
“The design of the jacket was focused on keeping the material and technologies at low price to have an affordable product,” team member Carine Rognon told IEEE.
Professor Dario Floreano, who led development, said the FlyJacket is the first result of a larger project called the Symbiotic Drone, which is “aimed at developing technologies that could create a symbiosis between a human and a non-anthropomorphic robot.”