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Mind-controlled Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)

Ashley Dumaine, an honors student studying Computer Science & Engineering (CSE), is making herself known in the world of technology. She demonstrated her independent study project titled “Mind-Controlled Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV)” at Connecticut’s Invention Convention, and caught the eye of writer Erick Royer of MultiRotor Pilot Magazine.

 In the article on page 26 and 27, Erick explains, “I noticed a Parrot Augmented Reality (AR) Drone quad-copter sitting on the floor and a female student with a very sci-fi-looking gadget attached to her head. The first thing I thought of was, “Could she be flying this with her mind?” Soon the area was cleared and without the aid of any controller in her hands, she began to fly the AR quad-copter. After he was mystified by the demonstration, he found out that she was, in fact, controlling the quad-copter with the device on her head. The device she used to achieve this feat was an electroencephalogram (EEG) sensor. Ashley wrote a program that receives signals from the EEG sensor over a Bluetooth connection, and then sends commands to the quad-copter over a Wi-Fi connection. The EEG sensor detects levels of cognition, mood, and electrical signals in facial muscles. In her demonstration, Ashley uses facial expressions to control the quad-copter.

When asked what her personal interests are related to the project, Ashley explained, “My interests include programming and working on tough projects, especially those that involve hardware such as circuits and microcontrollers.” “Most of this I can attribute to my advisor/independent study professor, Jeffrey Meunier, who inspired me to do this project after discussing using an Emotiv EEG headset. Initially, we were going to use a motorized wheelchair, but I preferred the UAV for more axes of movement.”

Professor Meunier teaches “Introduction to Computing for Engineers” and according to Jeff, “This is a result of a lot of risks that I took adding microcontrollers, a single board palm sized computer to control electrical devise and switches, into CSE 1010. The students love the concept because it frees programming from being constrained to just the computer. With microcontrollers, the programs can sense the outside world and affect the outside world.” Jeff advised, “I am proud of Ashley’s accomplishments and honored with the success she is experiencing with this project.”  

The demonstration was also presented at the School of Engineering’s Open House where students interested in Computer Science & Engineering stood in awe at Ashley’s presentation. Quad-copters are used for artificial intelligence and most recently designs have become popular in UAV Computer Science and Engineering research. This gives us a glimpse of the exciting future ahead in the rapidly growing world of unmanned aerial vehicles. In the meantime, Ashley has made the cover of a magazine and has inspired future students to explore Computer Science and Engineering as a career.

Article by Joy Billion.