Insects or Helicopters?

A conference on unconventional aerial robotics.

Event Details


swissnex San Francisco
730 Montgomery St., San Francisco, 94111 United States


October 22, 2007 from 2:30 pm to 5:00 pm America/Los Angeles (UTC-08:00)



Space exploration develops many technologies which later can find applications on Earth. Straight from the labs of Switzerland’s two federal institutes of technology, ETHZ and EPFL, we will have on hand three robot prototypes developed for space exploration that also have significant terrestrial applications. They illustrate one of Switzerland’s newest leading trends: small flight devices.

The Autonomous Systems Lab (ASL) at ETHZ, Zürich will present two prototypes: one with a 3.2 m wingspan and a weight of 2.6 kg that was successfully tested during an autonomous solar-powered flight lasting 5 hours; the other one is an autonomous helicopter that has been miniaturized so that it can fly and self-navigate in cluttered environments.The Laboratory of Intelligent Systems (LIS) at EPFL, Lausanne, will present a 10 g microflyer. It demonstrated full autonomous flight in an office-sized arena using a mere 100 pixels, 2 rate gyros and a miniature anemometer.Thomas G. Zimmerman is a member of the research staff exploring the frontiers of human-computer interaction at the IBM Almaden Research Center. His 30+ patents cover position tracking, user input, wireless communication, biometrics and encryption. His Data Glove invention established the field of Virtual Reality, selling over one million units.  His electric field PAN invention sends data through the human body, exchanging electronic business cards with a handshake, and prevents air bags from injuring children in the Honda Accord. He received his B.S. in Humanities and Engineering and M.S. in Media Science from MIT.


6:30 registration and networking
7:00 welcome message from Catherine Jean, swissnex
7:10 flight of the bumblebee, a general approach of the impacts of flying robots, Thomas Zimmerman, IBM Almaden Research Center
7:30 solar autonomous airplanes for sustainable flight, André Noth, ASL, ETHZ
7:50 indoor flying platforms: coming soon! Samir Bouabdallah, ASL, ETHZ
8:10 insect-inspired autonomous microflyers, Jean-Christophe Zufferey, LIS, EPFL
8:30 networking and aperitif


Photo: Myleen Hollero