An anonymous reader writes with this story about a machine-learning project out of the UK's University of Sheffield: Using simple drones the researchers have created automatic-control software that enables the "flying robot" to learn about its surroundings using a camera and an array of sensors. The robot starts with no information about its environment and the objects within it. But by overlaying different frames from the camera and selecting key reference points within the scene, it builds up a 3D map of the world around it. Other sensors pick up barometric and ultrasonic data, which give the robot additional clues about its environment. All this information is fed into autopilot software to allow the robot to navigate safely, but also to learn about the objects nearby and navigate to specific items.