Here's why the Pennovation Center has a drone cage - Technical.ly Philly

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Aug. 22, 2017 9:02 am

Here’s why the Pennovation Center has a drone cage

What happens inside the Motion Capture Arena stays inside the Motion Capture Arena.

Pennovation's drone enclosure, right outside the 58,000-square-foot research hub.

(Photo by Roberto Torres)

Inside Grays Ferry’s¬†Pennovation Center — a 58,000-square-foot research hub from the University of Pennsylvania — you’ll find a half dozen drone startups¬†building out their products and testing their flying gizmos.

Outside, though, within a large netted area known as the Motion Capture Arena, researchers pilot their aircrafts. What’s the purpose of that enclosure? We’re sad to report the space — which we first spotted during a media tour ahead of the official launch last year — has nothing to do with medieval-style death matches between battling drones.

“The rules have relaxed somewhat but, given the proximity to the airport and the HUP helipad, the net allows people to operate without having to clear every experiment with the airports and helipads,” said Penn’s Laurie Actman. “It also keeps the drones contained should they malfunction and attempt to leave the area.”

The space has also been fitted with tracking sensors to precisely measure and control how robots move inside the space. It’s essential for the development of autonomous aircrafts.

(See this TechCrunch piece on the similar setup they have going on at Carnegie Mellon’s Robust Adaptive Systems Lab.)

Earlier this year, Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf dropped by the research center and named realLIST honoree COSY as one of the startups that caught his eye.

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Roberto Torres

Roberto Torres became Technical.ly Lead Philly Reporter in May 2016. Prior, he was a freelance contributor to Technical.ly and Al Dia News. The native Venezuelan moved to Philadelphia in 2015 after reporting on research at his alma mater, the University of Zulia. Whenever he's not fencing deadlines, he can be found standing in line at Overbrook Pizza in West Philly, running Netflix/Hulu marathons with his wife or reading news from Venezuela.

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