In the Future, Flying Donuts May Guide Us

It's a common scene at a big office -- a gaggle of visitors lost in a maze of corridors and rooms, plaintively asking for directions to a meeting.

In the future they might be greeted at reception and simply told: "Follow the floating donut," The (Sydney) Daily Telegraph reported Wednesday.

Just such a machine -- known as a blimp -- has been built to show people around buildings at Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO).

The indoor blimp is a modified party balloon, the work of avionics engineering student Bryan Huang.

The 3-foot-wide blimp cruises the corridors using three propellers for lift and forward thrust and a number of infrared sensors to detect obstacles and walls.

A pressure sensor, accelerometer and compass detect height, speed and direction. For navigation, the blimp also uses a wireless sensor network.

Sensor nodes are scattered throughout CSIRO's Queensland Center for Advanced Technologies complex in Brisbane, where the blimp is being tested, to help guide it around the building.

Read more about Huang's flying donut at the Daily Telegraph.