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UF Hosts World's First Brain Drone Race

The world's first brain-drone race was held at the University of Florida Saturday.

Students from several different majors competed brain-drones against each other, according a press release by the University of Florida's College of Engineering.

The event was created to make the general public more aware of the technology, in hopes of inspiring future scholars to bring innovative ideas, said Chris Crawford, the lead developer for the brain-drone team.

“It is also an entertaining way to gather brain data that can be used to enhance our understanding of the brain,” Crawford said.

The brain-computer interface device, if used every day, can come with many benefits.

The device can capture brain data which can lead to detecting brain patterns and early brain disease, said the advisor for the brain-drone team, Juan Gilbert.

Brain-drones are drones that are controlled by wearing a brain-computer interface device that is connected to a computer. BCI is the use of a brain imaging device for the purpose of controlling machines with the human brain. BCI also understands the emotional state of the human.

Users for the brain-drones must train in at least two tasks, said Crawford.

“This training process assists the computer with detecting brain patterns that correspond to specific cognitive commands,” he said via email. “In our system we train a neutral state –users are relaxing, calm, not blinking– and a push state –imagine pushing an object forward. "

After the training process, the software is able to use the image processor to move the drone forward, Crawford said in an email.

About 50 people attended the free event to see the drones race.

“There were a total of 16 participants in the tournament,” Crawford said.

The drones were bought by a drone manufacturer named DJI and were funded by the team, said Gilbert.

The race varied based on who was controlling the drone, he said.

The first place winner of the race was Amber "Turbo” Hawthorn, an electrical engineering sophomore from Singapore. Brett Simons, a computer science junior from the U.S., won second place and Christopher Oster, a chemical engineering freshman from the U.S., won third place.

The drones used BCI to race and to open new areas of research and innovation, Gilbert said.

Brain-drone race attendee, Christopher Jacobson, said he was impressed by how developed the technology was.

“This is the future. I believe we will be able to soon control many things with these kinds of devices,” Jacobson said. “I’m happy our school was the first to create it. I enjoyed seeing the students in action with the drones."


Paola is a reporter for WUFT News who may be contacted by calling 352-392-6397 or emailing news