'Travel drones' give lift to armchair tourists

The Local Austria
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'Travel drones' give lift to armchair tourists
Fancy seeing the Grand Canyon without paying for a flight? Photo: Julius Reque/Wikimedia

For those of you who aren’t able to fly somewhere exotic this summer - do not despair. Austrian scientists have developed a new drone which means you could soon enjoy the bustling streets of Tokyo or the amazing vistas over the Grand Canyon from the comfort of your sofa.


Computer scientists Helmut Hlavacs and David Mirk from the University of Vienna said they created the ‘virtual tourist’ drone so that people who don’t have much disposable income, any free time or who have disabilities can experience places they would never dream of being able to see otherwise.

The drone uses GPS technology to fly around and film popular tourist cities and sites. The user sits in front of a computer at home, wearing a special headset with viewing goggles and starts the drone - which flies on a pre-mapped route which has no obstacles and is designed not to endanger anyone on the ground.

The user is then able to control the speed and direction in which the drone films via head movements. “You really have the feeling that you are there, and you can control what you look at and for how long” David Mirk said.

It has a stability and durability that is not seen in other conventional drones on the market which are used for entertainment purposes. It can fly to a height of 1,000 metres, at a speed of 70 km/h.

The drone could also come in handy for people who want to have a preview of some tourist attractions when planning a holiday.

It has been tested in open fields and around Vienna's streets and Dr. Hlavacs said it is ready to go into production but there are still some details that need to be fixed - such as finding a service provider and collaborating with tourist offices about what routes could be used and how the drone would be marketed.

“The drone won’t be able to fly everywhere - because there could be the risk of an accident,” he said.

He believes the drones could be the next era of cheap and environmentally-friendly tourism and estimates that a model could be used by the public in about a year's time.

However he suspects tourism bosses will only allow the drones to be used when people are not around.



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