When Missy Cummings, assistant professor of aeronautics and astronautics, and her students at MIT’s Humans and Automation Lab—HAL for short—discussed designing a new robot controller to streamline the interaction between humans and computers, the ever-practical MIT students suggested an iPhone app, because, well, they could all score free iPhones.

Six weeks later, Cummings and a team of 30 debuted the app in a test flight to control an airborne drone via the iPhone’s accelerometer. Watch the flight below.

The app sends GPS coordinates to the robot—commercially available, I might add—which it uses to navigate. All the user has to do is tap new waypoints onto the map display. The robot, or micro aerial vehicle (MAV), also contains a collision avoidance system and can stream video or photos back to the iPhone.

One application for what’s dubbed MAV-VUE (visualization of unexplored environments) is a lightweight way for soldiers to control unmanned aerial vehicles. Professor Cummings has another idea for how civilians could benefit. Find out what it is in this Wired article.