Dock Your AR Drone With the ISS and Teach a Real-Life Spacecraft Some New Tricks

By Andrew Liszewski on at

In an effort to improve autopilot systems aboard spacecraft, the European Space Agency has released a free iOS app that works with Parrot's AR Drone and lets amateur pilots practice a simulated docking with the International Space Station.

All a user has to do is download the Astro Drone app to their iOS device, print out an augmented reality marker, and then attach it to a real world docking target. On-screen it looks like the drone is docking with the space station, but it's not all about improving a pilot's skill.

In the background the app is actually documenting the techniques and approaches used by anyone who's successfully docked with the virtual station, and that data will then be used by the ESA to improve the automated docking systems of pilotless spacecraft. It's sort of a crowd-sourced approach that collects skills and knowledge to improve the agency's capabilities, instead of just money to fund some stupid smart watch.

[European Space Agency]