Dad’s Flying Drone Gives New Meaning to ‘Helicopter Parenting’

A Vermont father, Paul Wallich, has devised an innovative, if controversial, way to fulfill his duty to accompany his son during the quarter-mile walk. More from NBC News:

“It’s those Vermont winters that provided motivation for the project. ”If I am walking my kid to the bus stop in December and January, I would really rather not be doing that,” Wallich told NBC News.

The drone is a quadcopter that he built from store-bought parts. He strapped on a smartphone with a video-chat app so that he could watch his son from the comfort of his warm home.

The trick was to get the drone to follow his son. After exploring a few possibilities, Wallich put a GPS beacon in his son’s backpack, and employed navigation software that tells the drone to stay an arbitrary distance from the beacon.

It worked … up to a point.

“Vermont, as it turns out, is a really bad place for doing this kind of thing because you have hills and you have trees,” Wallich said. “Hills mean that the altitude control gets a lot more complicated and trees mean you have to do obstacle avoidance.

“If my kid is walking along the road and there is a branch overhanging the road, the quadcopter will gleefully run smack into it.”

There are potential fixes, such as sonar for collision control. By flying the quadcopter closer to his son — about 15 feet off the ground — he could program it to maintain altitude with respect to the ground instead of following GPS coordinates.”

Drone photo by Paul Wallich, via NBC News

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  1. by Rose

    On December 3, 2012 at 9:30 am

    What I want to know is: how quickly is this lazy techno-geek going to be able to be by his son’s side if the kids falls and gets stuck in the snow (happened to me all the time growing up in Upstate New York), or if some creepy back-woods pedaphile pulls into the driveway and starts chatting up the kid. I’m sorry, but there’s no technological substitute for good parenting.