The bold new world of flying robots

Updated 12:25 PM ET, Tue March 5, 2013
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Professor Raffaello D'Andrea has devoted his academic life to building better, more intelligent machines. He spent ten years at Cornell University before joining the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich (ETH Zurich) in 2007. He was instrumental in the setting up of the university's Flying Machine Arena -- a testbed for autonomous vehicles which are capable of learning incredible tricks. Zurich Minds 2012
D'Andrea and his team have taught quadrocopters to work together to catch balls and balance and throw poles to one another. Zurich Minds 2012
D'Andrea advises a small group of grad students at ETH Zurich. Together they are creating ever more complex tasks for their fleet of quadrocopters. Here the group can be seen onstage during a presentation at a Zurich Minds event last year. Zurich Minds 2012
At the Flying Machine Arena, two quadrocopters prepare to perform ... Carolina Flores
... balancing and tossing a pole between them without dropping it. Carolina Flores
This feat was engineered by ETH Zurich grad student Dario Brescianini. Watch this amazing video of the trick. Carolina Flores
Quadrocopters are popular now because of the shrinking size and cost of technology, says D'Andrea. Carolina Flores
Quadrocopters learn how to perform tasks using algorithms created by ETH Zurich. Here, three machines can been seen working together to cradle a ball in a net ... Markus Hehn, ETH Zurich
... before throwing the ball up in the air and them maneuvering to catch it as it drops back down. Watch video here Markus Hehn, ETH Zurich
ETH Zurich have also put the quadrocopters to work building a six-meter model tower made by stacking blocks one on top of another. François Lauginie
D'Andrea worked with Gramazio & Kohler architects on the project which was exhibited at the FRAC Centre in Orleans, France. François Lauginie
D'Andrea's academic adventures in robotics have borne fruit in the business world. He co-founded Kiva Systems -- a company which specializes in automated robotic systems for warehouses -- in 2003. The company was sold to Amazon for $775 million in 2012. Kiva Systems
The idea for Kiva Systems stemmed from D'Andrea's work at Cornell University's robot soccer team. Cornell University
D'Andrea was system architect of the Cornell Robot Soccer Team which won the RoboCup (an international robotics competition) four times. Cornell University