Drone technology is becoming quite a popular testbed for neuroscientists seeking to put brain-computer interfaces through their paces. Numerous research projects have already impressed us with drones controlled by nothing other than the power of thought, but for some, merely flying the things is already a tad passé. The Brain Drone Race takes this technology and gives it an edge, imploring pensive pilots to will their drones across the finish line ahead of the competition.

Our ability to detect and interpret the electrical signals coming from our brains is improving all the time, with this research manifesting itself in a number of recent success stories. Earlier this month it enabled a quadriplegic man to bypass the spinal cord and handle everyday objects using his thoughts. One earlier example saw a paralyzed man regain voluntary leg movement.

Marrying this blend of neuroscience and robotics with another fast-moving type of tech is returning some promising results. By fitting users with Electroencephalogram (EEG) caps, researchers have been able to translate brain signals into control commands for a variety of drones. They hope that as the technology advances, it will allow disabled people to control not just drones, but devices like wheelchairs and artificial limbs, as well.

The Brain Drone Race is a fair change of pace from the high-speed drone races that are popping up all over the world. But when you consider that in place of joysticks and VR goggles racers rely only on their minds to keep their aircraft moving along, it is possibly even more impressive.

The brainchild of researchers from the University of Florida, the Brain Drone Race had competitors don brain-computer interfaces and focus on an object floating on the computer screen in front of them. The pilots are instructed to imagine moving the object forward, and the program than learns how to navigate the drone based on their brain patterns.

The inaugural Brain Drone Race was hosted at the University of Florida last week, where entrants battled it out for prizes that included Beats Studio Wireless Headphones, a GoPro Hero4 and an Apple Watch Sport. By tapping into the fast-growing sport of drone racing, the researchers aim to capture imaginations and further drive the development of brain-computer interfaces that could one day be used in everyday life.

You can hear from the team in the video below.

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