Father builds automated drone to watch son walk to the bus stop

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quadcopter drone

Covered in extensive detail on the IEEE Spectrum magazine site, a father names Paul Wallich in Vermont decided to build a camera-equipped quadcopter to follow his son from home to the school bus stop. He specifically wanted to build the security device for extremely cold mornings in December and January in order to avoid the quarter-mile walk to and from the bus stop. To get started, he first purchased a basic quadcopter kit and was quickly able to get up in the air due to the simple construction. He also designed a few sets of replacement legs out of foam board to cushion landings. 

quadcopter camera watch kidRather than develop a custom video solution, Wallich attached an old smartphone to the quadcopter and turned on a video chat application in order to send a video feed back to his computer at home. That particular model of quadcopter could lift several pounds, so the addition of the smartphone wasn’t significant in regards to the effect of the added weight on maneuverability. 

While the software controlling the quadcopter can be programmed to travel a specific set of coordinates, Wallich needed to come up with a solution that would work with the varied path his son took each day on the way to the school bus stop. In order to accomplish this, he created a small GPS beacon powered by a coin-cell battery that lasts up to a week. This beacon was placed within his son’s backpack and the quadcopter was programmed to stay a specific distance from the beacon. 

school bus snowAccording to Wallich, he ran into issues with wind as well as obstacles in the path such as branches on trees. In an interview with NBC News, Wallich stated “Vermont, as it turns out, is a really bad place for doing this kind of thing because you have hills and you have trees. 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.”

He’s looking into adding more sonar units on the quadcopter in order to assist with collision avoidance as well as a new sensor to provide more accurate positioning while in the air. Wallich also discovered that the lithium-ion battery life powering the quadcopter was limited at best. He had enough time to fly to the bus stop, hover for a few minutes and fly back to the house before the battery would go completely dead. In addition, power requirements doubled when the quadcopter was in motion or attempting to fly against a stiff breeze. Adding extra batteries to the quadcopter to increase power also increased the weight, thus it wasn’t significantly helpful.

Regarding the safety of the device, Wallich stated “With the current state of the technology, unless I really changed the design a lot, I would not want it within 15 feet of my kid.” However, Wallich indicated that his son liked the automated robot drone. 

Showing 61 comments

  1. Jason Engleman 1 year Ago  
    Poor kid
  2. itoldyouiran 1 year Ago  
    And all the while he should have been building one to watch his wife's tennis lessons.
  3. Ibriham Turay 1 year Ago  
    Lmao
  4. Maybe the son is a teenager and glad to at least not have Dad walking with him. Remember this is a Helicopter Dad. They have been known to follow their kids to college.

    Best to know all the facts before finalizing your conclusions. This article's commentary is a great opportunity to see how people communicate.
  5. Barry Jolliff 1 year Ago  
    Talk about "Helicopter Parenting," this is off the scale to the max!
  6. Mike Hlihor 1 year Ago  
    Nick Boanca
  7. Fely Elloso Castellano 1 year Ago  
    we heard sound of music local regional but many regional
  8. Tom Pajak 1 year Ago  
  9. Alan Klink 1 year Ago  
    @Nicola, why 17? Those are going to be affordable and consumer-usable in the next 10 years. Anticipate people using them, accidents, spying, paranoia. Local & regional... yada, yada.
  10. Peter Cohn 1 year Ago  
    Instead of walking his son to the bus stop.
  11. Nicola M Heller 1 year Ago  
    I want to attach one to Noah's head and follow him around when he is 17....
  12. Drew Wilson 1 year Ago  
    "Let's drop the big one now"
  13. Kermit R Santiago Lopez 1 year Ago  
    Way to go, BRAIN! These are the times were I think that Pinky is a lot smarter than you!
  14. 1 year Ago  
  15. Al Smith 1 year Ago  
    Next, father will need to add a Laser Firing System to destroy the bullies that make fun of his son, because his father is too lazy to walk to the bus stop.

    ...I'd would've built one too, though.
  16. Venittaya Chaya 1 year Ago  
    Not only is the father a genius, but AWESOME!
  17. Paige Graham 1 year Ago  
    It specifically says, in the first paragraph "He specifically wanted to build the security device for extremely cold mornings in December and January in order to avoid the quarter-mile walk to and from the bus stop." Which means he can walk, in fact he can walk that far, he just doesn't want to.
  18. Becky Ann Grove 1 year Ago  
    Just walk your kid to school
  19. Brian Andrew Stephens 1 year Ago  
    Im guessing the drone follows the kid into the creepy white van too, when the stranger says "get in"
  20. Kevin Lynch 1 year Ago  
    I like it though!
  21. Kevin Lynch 1 year Ago  
    Hmm I wonder how long it will take before it makes someone nervous?
  22. Lisa Batchelder 1 year Ago  
    Wow...talk about your helicopter parents!
  23. Gerry Manning 1 year Ago  
    cool
  24. Randolph Bean 1 year Ago  
    Next thing you know, the other kids would feel threatened and some other dad would be waling his kid to the bus stop with a Scale Blackhawk helicopter. The next guy would have a Predator. trumped by a Grim Reaper. Stop the madness now!
  25. Christopher R Chasse 1 year Ago  
    F***ING AWESOME!!!
  26. David Fleck 1 year Ago  
    Does anyone think that he just wants his kid safe. Maybe the kid don't want Dad walking him to the bus stop. Remember people, These streets are not as safe as they were when we were growing up.
  27. Peter Kalnin 1 year Ago  
    I could see fathers using these to chaperone their teenage daughters on prom night... Randolph - what do you think?
  28. Randall Parker Jr. 1 year Ago  
    I'm much more in favor of private market drones then government drones.
  29. Randall Parker Jr. 1 year Ago  
    Freedom Feens podcast - fan page, Michael Dean, Neema Vedadi - there is certainly a market demand for more flying eyeballs!
  30. Susan Parks 1 year Ago  
    Is it equipt with weapons?
  31. Kenton Schassberger 1 year Ago  
    not bad, i would go that far to protect kids
  32. Richard Meissner 1 year Ago  
    Add some hellfire missiles and you have an instant bully deterent
  33. Philip Louie 1 year Ago  
    Cool gadget
  34. Per Mundilfare Andreasen 1 year Ago  
    I'm impressed...and a lookalike is already massproduced by an IT-gigant, who's name i can't remember in the present. :-)
  35. Kaleb Kirton 1 year Ago  
    Creepy yet impressive
  36. John Compton 1 year Ago  
    Eh, just trying to not make so many assumptions. One way or the other, he could be a bad parent, judging by the fact that he's even trying is better than most.
  37. Christopher Buttner 1 year Ago  
    @Compton - that's REALLY assuming the worst about what can happen to someone, and the article would have made mention of such obstacles, no? @Lamar - thanks!
  38. John Lamar 1 year Ago  
    Christopher LMAOFF!!!!! Dude your hilarious!!!! Too funny!!!!
  39. Peter Reverman 1 year Ago  
    True helicopter parent...
  40. Pamela Renée Wright 1 year Ago  
    All any kid has to do is aim a rock at the drone, then the kid's on his own.
  41. John Compton 1 year Ago  
    That or he's invalid, or at work. And is making sure his child isn't being bullied (or at least getting physical evidence of it). Can't always assume the worst about people.
  42. Christopher Buttner 1 year Ago  
    That is the most passive-aggressive, determinedly-lazy set of fathering skills I have ever heard of... I can just picture the therapy sessions this kid is going to have in the future... "Yea, Dad was incredibly detached and only communicated with me through his flying robot alter ego.... therefore, I have weird sexual proclivities about aircraft, major appliances and computer peripherals."
  43. Ed Glaser 1 year Ago  
    And, so it starts!!!
  44. Karl Adviento 1 year Ago  
    thing is tho if your a kid, wouldn't be cool for some drone to follow you, other kids would be jealous xD
  45. Tony Prado 1 year Ago  
    c-l-i-n-g-y
  46. Cheyne Rushing 1 year Ago  
    Rather than spend time with family, I'm on Facebook. Hi Karl.
  47. Joe Hernand Chichioco 1 year Ago  
    Nice gadget but missing out on being a good dad. Lazy ass.
  48. Kevin Mercado 1 year Ago  
    very cool.
  49. Sasha Limpar 1 year Ago  
    Lmfao!!!
  50. Karl Adviento 1 year Ago  
    a father being lazy and thinks its a pain in the ass to walk his son to the bus stop, so he made that. alot of fathers/mothers out there would be excited about this.
  51. kingkong 1 year Ago  
    How does he ensure that the drone stays at least 15 feet away from everyone else?
  52. Vaughn Grisham 1 year Ago  
    Bully seeking missiles, please.
  53. akacheshire 1 year Ago  
    now go fund it at indiegogo.com
  54. Richard Wills 1 year Ago  
    I guess he's too lazy to walk his son there himself...
  55. Brian Carrillo 1 year Ago  
    While cool, I think this Dad is a lazy ass and should get off his ass.
  56. timhood 1 year Ago  
    The irony is that Dad has spent far more time working on this project than he ever will with his son.
  57. wildcatherder 1 year Ago  
    Dad couldn't be bothered to walk with me, maybe chat a bit, actually BE there in case I did get in trouble. Instead, he built a cool gadget that will provide good photos for the police and media, should something actually endanger me.
  58. Elmo Clarity 1 year Ago  
    As Tony says, a bit over the top. But as a hobby project, it sounds like a fun idea. I'm wondering what the FAA says about things like this though. I remember reading about the FAA prohibiting remote drones and a story here in California about some real estate agents getting in trouble with the FAA for using a remote drone to take pictures of the house for sale.
  59. Randolph 1 year Ago  
    Ok, ok, ok. I literally can't stop laughing. Where do I begin?

    Let's start with this - the last time extreme lazy inspired invention, we got a wonderful reclining sofa-chair. So could this be that bad? Yes it could.

    "He specifically wanted to build the security device for extreme cold mornings... to avoid the quarter-mile walk to and from the bus stop."

    You, sir, have won "dead-beat-dad" of the year award. Let's start with this security device that does NOTHING to protect your child. You just get to watch, hopefully horrified, as somebody kidnaps your child or runs them over with a car.

    Next, let's move on to the bataan death march-like distance you must walk... Wait, a quarter-mile you say? 400 meters? That's really too much? Ok, I'll entertain that you're too weezy and/or out of shape to handle such a minimal distance because of the "extreme cold." Did we forget the advent of those self-contained environments that help us travel to various locations during any form of weather?

    AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO NOTICED THAT THE DAD SITS AT HOME WHILE THE KID WALKS IN THE COLD? I feel like I'm taking crazy pills! How much apathy must you have towards your children?

    Finally, I'll end my diatribe with this thought. Fathers in bad neighborhoods throughout the country are celebrating. Their child's walk home from the bus stop passed all those crack-heads, drug dealers, and gang bangers won't be any safer. But at least dad's will be.

    Oh yeah, somebody already invented it: http://t.brookstone.com/parrot-ar-drone-2-quadricopter
    1. I'm sure no child wants to be walked to a bus stop with their parents... I mean, People are mean, Especially children, They will make fun of you for no reason..

      He could add a better lighter battery and attach some sort of tazer to it.. XD So when it sees someone walking close to the child it flies in and tazes the person..

      All I know is, I wouldn't want to get up and walk my child a Half mile then back home would be a mile in the cold.
  60. Tony Nazar 1 year Ago  
    This gives new meaning to the concept of helicopter parent. Unless Vermont is suddenly the Bronx, I 'd say it's a bit over the top - literally.