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Geek dad builds helicopter to follow his son to the bus stop

Categories: Science & Technology

480-camera-copter-2172726.jpgPaul Wallich fitted this quad-copter is fitted with a camera and GPS tracker to follow his son to the bus stop. (Paul Wallich/IEEE Spectrum)

Paul Wallich took the concept of helicopter parenting literally when he built a flying drone to follow his son to the bus stop.

Wallich, a contributing editor to technology website IEEE Spectrum, attached a smartphone running a video chat application and a sensor that can track a GPS unit in his son's backpack. It's designed to stay a pre-set distance away from the tracker to avoid knocking right into his son in the process.

The copter is based on the Arduino open-source programming platform.

"On school-day mornings, I walk my grade-school-age son 400 metres down the hill to the bus stop. Last winter, I fantasized about sitting at my computer while a camera-equipped drone followed him overhead," wrote Wallich. "So this year, I set out to build one."

The high-tech surveillance solution has its limitations, however. Wallich wrote that the quad-copter's battery has about enough power to fly with his son to the bus stop, wait a few minutes, and then fly back.

Adding more battery packs to the device would add more weight to the 'copter, resulting in less power efficiency rather than more. And the trees in his front yard would either require him to fly the drone by remote control by standing outside, or hover above the trees themselves.

"So no following to the school playground," wrote Wallich. There's no telling what other children's parents think about the idea of the quad-copter following a school bus to the playground, but at the moment the technology available doesn't allow this anyway. So for now, Wallich's helicopter remains a work in progress.

Is this a great idea to keep an eye on your kids when they're out of the house, or helicopter parenting gone too far?

Tags: parenting, Technology

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