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Drones You Can Fly with Your Mind: Astral AR Aims to Stop Gun Violence, Increase Diversity in the Drone Industry

BY Zacc Dukowitz
30 January 2018

We hear about new ways drones are being used all the time. From helping create an autonomous farm, to performing automated inspections, to creating fleets of autonomous delivery drones, there are impressive things happening everywhere we turn in this industry.

Even still, the work Astral AR is doing with drones—and perhaps just as importantly, the way they do that work—struck us as pretty revolutionary when we first heard about it.

astral ar drones

Let’s talk about their work first.

Astral AR has developed a system that allows pilots to identify and stop loaded firearms. But that’s not all—the drones doing this are flown using the pilot’s mind.

Their gun prevention drones are armored with a kind of metallic foam developed by a researcher at the University of North Carolina, designed to pulverize bullets on impact. These drones will be able to do things like detect guns and bombs through walls, as well as detect heartbeats, which can help find people trapped in hidden places.

And Astral AR’s technology isn’t just for stopping gun violence.

Their drones can be used to assist emergency personnel in responding to accidents, civil disturbances, and other incidents (back in August, Astral AR was reportedly in discussions with the Austin, Texas police department about ways their drones could be used to support their efforts).

In addition, Astral AR’s Charlie I and Charlie II drones were created specifically for airborne fire rescue scenarios.

Some of the stand out features listed for the Charlie I are:

  • Provides ongoing “educated guess” computer analysis of chemical composition and air quality
  • Is fully capable of facial recognition / distinguishing different individuals, people-counting

These things go much deeper than just providing aerial thermographic insights, and into knowing exactly who is where in a disaster scenario—or who might be missing—as well as detecting unseen dangers, like chemicals present in the air.


But hold on—what was that whole thing about flying a drone using your mind?

Let’s take a closer look at how that actually works.

Flying Drones with Your Mind

According to Astral AR co-founder Leah LaSalla, their drones can be piloted using just your mind.

So when you think “bank left”, the drone will bank left, with the action provided via an augmented reality vizor, such as the one pictured below.

astral ar_hololens

This way of flying works through a combination of a holographic display and the Internet of Things (which, if we’re following, just means wifi connecting your AR vizor to a drone) put into “devices capable of distinguishing mental commands and individual words with real-time holographic rendering of a drone’s visual feeds.”

With mind-driven piloting, real-time AR data from the system installed on the drone is received by the pilot, and the pilot’s biometric input is given to the drone in response to the AR feed. The biometric data used includes optic sensors for predictive gaze-tracking and head tracking, and this data, backed up with gestures, essentially allows the system operating the drone to “read” the pilot’s mind.

But no distractions, please. The Astral AR webpage on their AR vizor warns that the piloting system is designed for solo operation in an undisturbed working environment for reduced pilot distraction.

A Focus on Diversity and Equality

Astral AR’s tech is pretty wild—I mean, you can’t get much more futuristic than mind control drones created to stop bullets.

But the company also stands out because of their commitment to diversity and equality in the work place, as well as their focus on supporting veterans. In fact, their co-founder José La Placa Amigò is an Air Force veteran, and many of their employees are veterans as well.

80% of our team are women and people of color. Some are veterans & disabled individuals, so this is very personal.

– Leah LaSalla, Co-Founder of Astral AR

Regarding equality, Astral AR has a commitment to addressing pay differences, and have publicly stated that they pay all of their employees equally for the same types of work.

All of which makes Astral AR futuristic not just in a “I think I saw that in a comic book when I was a kid” kind of way, but also in a progressive, forward thinking kind of way, too.

To learn more about Astral AR and the work they do, make sure to check out their website.

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