LOS ANGELES — Chances are, this has already happened to you today: You’re walking and someone approaches from the other direction. Did you go left? Did you right? Or, did you shuffle back from side to side as the two of you made up a new dance move?
Having not mastered our own two feet, it is a little scary that those instincts are behind the programming of unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs.
The growing number of personal and commercial drones populating our skies will be useless if they’re all smashing into each other. So mankind is turning to the pros to see if there is a solution. Scientists from Australia’s University of Queensland looked at birds to see how they avoid mid-air collisions.
The four-day study revealed that no mishaps occurred over the 102 flights, and that 85 percent of the time, the birds turned right upon approach. They also managed to avoid crashes by flying over and under each other.
Researchers found the birds rarely chose the same choice and believe it to be based on preference or determined by flock hierarchy.
Humans haven’t evolved past “the awkward shuffle” because walking collisions are rarely fatal. But will we be able to program machines to be smarter than the birds?