Australian scientists have developed a talking drone that can converse with air traffic controllers as a pilot would, the lead researcher told Xinhua on Friday.
Dr Reece Clothier, leader of the Unmanned Aircraft Systems team at Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), said it was essential drones that were capable of flying safely in civil airspace.
Drones are the fastest growing sector of the aviation industry, with worldwide sales expected to top 6 billion U.S. dollars this year.
He said the communication system his team has designed allowed air traffic controllers to verbally interact with drones which allowed for integration into the current traffic management system. "They sound exactly like a normal pilot," Clothier told Xinhua on Friday.
"There will be absolutely no change at all from the air- traffic controller's perspective." "The objective is to make unmanned aircraft appear and interact as seamlessly as possible in the air traffic management system."
On board the unmanned aircraft, radio transmissions are converted into digital messages that the software developed by Clothier's team can interpret. And then, the air traffic controllers can decide on an appropriate instruction or reply.
Clothier said the drones would be able to monitor air traffic control chatter and listen out for their call sign, as pilots currently do.
The next step is imitating the intelligent decision making that pilots undertake in seconds, such as offering alternatives to air traffic control's instructions rather than blindly following.
"We've still got a little way to go. At the moment, the decision making component is very simple," he said.
"There still a lot of work to replicate (pilots') decision making in the drone with high-level artificial intelligence, but the basic interface and the basic commands work."
With owners even able to choose the particular voice of their drone -- like in satellite navigation systems built in cars and phones -- the sky truly is the limit.