Helicopter controlled by human EEG

A fantastic new study by LeFleur et al. (2013) used a non-invasive brain computer interface to control the flight of a robotic quadcopter. Five subjects were trained to modulate their sensorimotor rhythms using a motor imagery paradigm while wearing a 64 channel EEG electrocap. The C3 and C4 electrodes located over left and right sensorimotor cortices were selected. EEG activity in a 12 Hz frequency bin was measured and quantified at those sites.

First, the participants trained by imagining left or right hand movements to control a 2D cursor. A second task involved imagining squeezing or curling both hands to move the cursor up and down. These two tasks were combined together for a third phase. When target accuracy of 70% or more was achieved in phase three, they moved on to helicopter training.

Thumbnail, link to video 5
Supplementary data video 5. (1.47 MB, WMV) Subject 5 immediately acquires a ring after take-off, demonstrating fast acclimation to the BCI system when beginning a new run.

The paper was published in the open access Journal of Neural Engineering.


Lafleur K, Cassady K, Doud A, Shades K, Rogin E, He B. Quadcopter control in three-dimensional space using a noninvasive motor imagery-based brain-computer interface. J Neural Eng. 2013 Jun 4;10(4):046003.  doi:10.1088/1741-2560/10/4/046003

Published on: Jun 6, 2013 @ 13:14

2 thoughts on “Helicopter controlled by human EEG

  1. Well, it never pays to let one’s guard down… Bernd Porr has warned about the possibility of contamination from EMG (muscle activity), even at the primary electrode sites (C3, C4) and frequency range (~12 Hz) used here. Goncharova et al. wrote about this in 2003.

    Lafleur et al. did state in their paper:

    “Subjects were visually monitored for inappropriate eye blinking or muscle activity during each session and were regularly reminded of the importance of minimizing movement. However, observed eye blinking and muscle movement were minimal during all of the experimental sessions.”

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