'Now that Microsoft's Kinect camera sensor has been hacked from mere video game controller to homebrew developer's plaything, we've seen some amazing new applications. This flying machine that uses the Xbox 360 camera's "eyes" to see is (perhaps) the coolest.
Instead of being hooked up to an Xbox 360 to play games, Kinect is sending visual data to a Linux box onboard the mini-copter, letting the quadrotor fly autonomously, detect its own altitude and avoid obstacles. A back-up motion capture device provides other data - lateral and yaw - and provides a safety back up for altitude detection, should Kinect fail at some point.
The Kinect-powered Pelican quadrotor is the work of the STARMAC Project in the Hybrid Systems Lab at UC Berkeley, who explain how this sausage is made at researcher Patrick Bouffard's YouTube channel.
Thanks to skyfreak5775 for the heads up. Quadrotor Autonomous Flight and Obstacle Avoidance with Kinect Sensor [YouTube]