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Become a pilot with your iPhone

July 18, 2011

A small, remotely controlled quadcopter that MIT prof Missy Cummings can fly with an iPhone

Ok, you may be asking, what does this have to do with the environment? Former Navy pilot Missy Cummings told me that remotely controlled planes are being used to track the spread of wildfires, to monitor tornado formations and to detect radioactivity from the tsunami in Japan.

I had no idea that unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) were being used so frequently! Some commercial planes can even fly themselves! Cummings told me,  “You’ve probably been on a plane, and you just didn’t know it, where the pilot never touched anything.”

I was shocked. The full article, “The Sky’s the Limit,” was published in the business section of the Boston Globe today. Oh yeah, for all the seriousness of UAV deployment and the security concerns it raises, I have to include Cummings’ playful idea for how to use the vehicle, which has a camera attached:

“We could tell it to look in the window of Starbucks and see how long the line is.” Wow, waiting in a Starbucks line has never seemed so passé.

* Cummings goes on the Colbert Report next Thursday, look for the episode in August.

[UPDATE August, 19, 2011]: Colbert Report video in now online.

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