This article is more than 1 year old

In this round of 'Real life or Black Mirror episode', drones that hunt down humans by listening to their screams

Plus: UAVs that can smell your poop – both for benign purposes, mind

Researchers at Fraunhofer FKIE have unveiled a system that teaches drones to hunt down humans by listening to their screams.

Yes, it's a perfectly reasonable use of technology which will definitely not come back to haunt humanity in any way, shape, or form.

"We have a lot of experience in filtering noise, such as wind noise, extremely loud helicopter noise, ground vehicles noise, and more," Fraunhofer FKIE's research fellow Macarena Varela said. "We use different types of filters to be able to reduce noise, and we use diverse detection procedures to extract the signals of interest, such as impulsive sounds or screams."

In Varela's defence, the technology is not intended to allow future autonomous battle machines - which may or may not look like the HK-Aerial craft from James Cameron's 1984 classic The Terminator - to track down the few remaining human survivors of an inevitable robot uprising by listening to their pitiful cries for mercy; instead, the Crow's Nest Array looks to locate people trapped by earthquakes, collapsed buildings, and other disasters.

"We have already successfully detected and angularly located impulsive sounds very precisely near distances with the presence of drone noise," Varela said ahead of presenting the work at the 180th Meeting of the Acoustical Society of America this week.

"We will be testing the system on a flying drone to measure impulsive sounds, such as screams, and process the data with different methods to also estimate the geographical positions of the sounds."

In the unlikely event that the technology does get used for other purposes, staying silent may not be enough: another team at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia has unveiled SNIFFDRONE, which uses chemical sensors capable of homing in on the smell of crap which would likely fill survivor's undercrackers as they flee the oncoming robot horde.

As with the Crow's Nest Array, SNIFFDRONE has been developed with a benign purpose in mind: "The developed drone allows, thanks to a combination of chemical sensors and artificial intelligence, to quickly assess the intensity of the odour emitted by a waste management plant in large areas that are sometimes difficult to access," Professor Santi Marco, head of the IBEC Signal and Information Processing for Sensing Systems Group, said of the project. "This information is relevant for the plant operators with the ultimate goal of minimising the impact on neighbouring communities." ®

More about


Send us news

Other stories you might like