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Tekever Unveils Mind-Controlled Drone in Lisbon

A Portuguese company has demonstrated groundbreaking technology that allows people to pilot unmanned aerial drones using brainwaves.

Drone specialist Tekever and a team of Portuguese, Dutch and German researchers successfully tested Brainflight, which uses mental activity detected through a skull cap to remotely pilot unmanned aircraft, in Lisbon, BBC reports.

Brainflight’s interdisciplinary research combines neuroscience and aeronautical systems engineering. The brain-to-computer interface uses high-performance electroencephalogram (EEG) systems to measure brain waves noninvasively, then an algorithm converts brain signals—the drone operator’s thoughts—into drone commands.

“The project has successfully demonstrated that the use of the brain computer interface (BMI) on a simulator for the Diamond DA42 aircraft, where one pilot controlled the simulator through the Brainflight system,” Tekever chief operating officer Ricardo Mendes said in a statement.

“We’ve also integrated the BMI the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) ground systems and have successfully tested it in UAV simulators,” added Mendes. “We’re now taking it one step further, and performing live flight tests with the UAV.”

Tekever told the BBC that its technology will soon enable people with restricted movement to pilot aircraft. In the longer term, it envisions cargo planes and other large aircraft being remotely controlled by brainwaves.

But London-based aviation consultant John Strickland said both government regulation and public mistrust could raise serious questions about the viability of such lofty objectives.

“This to me is certainly at the moment a bridge too far,” Strickland told the BBC. “You could get someone radically-minded who might say it, but I’d be surprised if anyone would do it.”

Mendes countered that present and future technology could address safety concerns, such as someone having a seizure while piloting a drone.

“There are algorithms on board that prevent bad things from happening,” Mendes told the BBC, adding that drone development is inevitable. “Technology is evolving, regulations are evolving. [Unmanned jets are] obviously going to happen. The question is not if, it’s when.”

Another potential application for this technology is the development of mind-controlled prosthetic limbs that could restore mobility and utility to people with physical disabilities or injuries.

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