European engineers say they’ve built the world’s smallest autonomous rotor drone—one that uses minimal battery power to run its AI. It’s a crucial development in the push to build fleets of self-navigating nano-drones (four inches across or less) that one day will carry everything from environmental sensors to tiny cameras for security or inspection duty.
The Bologna-Zurich team’s autonomous nano drone uses a new mobile processor named GAP8. It packs eight processing cores (hence the name) optimized for running artificial intelligence applications, such as image recognition and analysis.
GAP8, in turn, is based on a new microchip architecture known as RISC-V. The term “RISC” may not sound familiar, but the technology is everywhere. First developed in the 80s, RISC has become the foundation for mobile processors and a key part of laptop and desktop CPUs. Short for “reduced instruction set computer,” RISC saves power by running lots of simple operations rather than a smaller set of complex ones. In March, its inventors received the Turing Award, nicknamed the “Nobel Prize of computing.”
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