Science of Star Wars: Drones

Star Wars shows us a world where humans and drones live in harmony.

Copyright Lucasfilm

There are a variety of robots – Droids – used in the Star Wars Saga.  They are all various shapes and sizes.  Perhaps the most incidieous is the Imperial Probe Droid.  Probe droids, and their Sith Drone cousins, are automated surveillance (and destruction) devices.  The Empire uses them to monitor for suspicious activity.  We first see it in The  Empire Strikes back when Vader dispatches them far and wide in order to search for Luke Skywalker.

Star Wars has inspired many successful entrepreneurs to build and deploy robots.  The company iRobot has perhaps been the most successful at getting useful robots into our homes.

We’re even starting to get our own personal probe droids to follow us around and take video of ourselves (hopefully):

There’s really no one single advancement that have made these types of devices possible.  But the low cost of significant amount of processing power, easily accessible components – programmable motors, etc – that are really allowing a broad range of engineers to come up with new designs.  Advanced software has enabled them to operate with more intelligence through the development of algorithms based on sensory input.

We’re even seeing early examples of software that enables each robot to cooperate with each other to accomplish tasks.

It’s also important to consider how humans and robots will work together (and be less annoying just because they’re fluent in over 6 million forms of communication).

We’re really in an exciting nascent period where we can make very effective robots that can accomplish very specific tasks. But we are seeing very fast development of capabilities in terms of software capabilities, specifically slowly marching towards artificial intelligence levels.  It’s clear we’re still far away from having a real-life IG-88 bounty hunter, but it’s perhaps not an impossibility.