Flocking robots take to the sky (w/ video)

Sep 27, 2011 by Deborah Braconnier weblog

(PhysOrg.com) -- The next time you look up in the sky and think you are seeing a flock of geese flying south for the winter, take a closer look. If you are in Lake Geneva, Switzerland, these flocks may actually be robots from the Laboratory of Intelligence Systems.

Researchers Sabine Hauert, Sebverin Leven and Dario Floreano have discovered a way to make small, fixed wing robots take to the sky and fly together without crashing and migrate. In order to accomplish this, the researchers needed to make the robots move at the same speed and direction, avoid collision and stay in close proximity. They will be presenting their work this week in San Francisco at the International Conference on and Systems.

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In order to accomplish this, the researchers used a three-dimensional algorithm developed by Craig Reynolds in 1986 where the individual robots responds to its close neighbor but does not consider the actions of the group as a whole.

The robots were created by the robotics company senseFly and communicate with each other using a Wi-Fi dongle that is connected to an on-board Linux computer. They began with simple testing and have reached a total of 10 flocking birds at one time but simulations show they could use up to 100 flocking robots.

In addition to programming the robots to fly at the same speed, stay close and not collide, the researchers also added something else. They added the ability to migrate. This allows the researchers to set a pre-programmed destination for the swarm to travel to.

The intended use for these flocking robots is to image and map the ground as well as the potential to be used for search and surveillance missions.

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User comments : 13

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SincerelyTwo
5 / 5 (5) Sep 27, 2011
Create hundreds more, then attach LED's to them and unleash them during the night! Synchronize audio tracks between a group pf people on the ground and the flock, then have the flock respond to changes in the music.

... and so forth! Amazing creative potential here. (Second to the epic research potential, of course.)
Jeddy_Mctedder
1.9 / 5 (9) Sep 27, 2011
finally drone swarms. these are the future, and they will be devastatingly effective , devastatingly cheap , and a highly robust method for all sorts of purposes,---precision attack/surveillance/spreading mass firestorms in cities and crops ( destruction of enemies food supplies) .

the devastation that can be caused by intelligently operating drone swarms is endless.

think of a b-2 bomber with a bombay full of ten thousand drones armed with 10 small incendiary devices each programmed to deploy them upon building rooftops around a city.
100,000 small fires, if even 100 of them develop into large fires, then you have a set of fires large enough to devastate large swaths of most cities. ---that's just like the batbombs developed by the u.s. for world war ii on steroids.
SincerelyTwo
5 / 5 (2) Sep 27, 2011
While I don't quite enjoy Jeddy's enthusiasm over military applications, there's clearly quite a few applications in other industries as well; agriculture, search and rescue, exploration of the sea, nature, and space, etc...

How about an adaptive ad hoc wifi network, when destruction occurs in some area the network can physically adjust its topology to re-establish connections to disconnected nodes, etc. Or if the nodes were flying vehicles then the network could actually actively protect itself against attacks to infrastructure.

Oh wow... the more I think about this the more exciting it is. :)
Nanobanano
2.3 / 5 (3) Sep 27, 2011
Or if the nodes were flying vehicles then the network could actually actively protect itself against attacks to infrastructure.


Yes, a cell phone tower, minus the vulnerable tower. Like perhaps a balloon or a swarm of robots like this.

As computers advance more and more and storage and 3d rendering and maping improves, I expect Google could use this to make a map of the entire surface of the earth precisely accurate in 3d, like Street View meets 3d-simulator, as I've speculated in the past.

And yes, as mentioned, swarms of these would be ideal for a firebomb attack or a WMD delivery system which would be very cheap and concealable compared to rockets or other delivery systems.

They could also be armed with high-pitched sonic devices for non-lethal psychological warfare or crowd control for riots. Imagine 100 smoke detectors and strobe lights blaring and flashing at the same time and flying around above people's heads...
gmurphy
not rated yet Sep 27, 2011
Details of the software stack here: http://www.sensef...let-stix
jwalkeriii
not rated yet Sep 27, 2011
I believe they cost about $10,000 US for each "kit"
CHF 9990
http://www.sensef...port/faq
harryhill
1 / 5 (4) Sep 27, 2011
Congrats...you gave the military a reason to keep the B-2. They will also include the: B-1..B-52...F-35 etc. I will be waiting for their next 'reason' to start another war. Naturally, to be fought by other than those that start it.I could have said 'command' but would give them intelligence they do not have.
Thex1138
5 / 5 (3) Sep 27, 2011
Weather monitoring, embed sensors on the top to detect UV or other radiation that's entering the atmosphere... optical sensors, gravity sensors... relaying data live... put a solar panel on it and it will fly more than a year non-stop...
Put some relay comms on each one, space them over a few or more kilomters...
Jeddy_Mctedder
1 / 5 (6) Sep 27, 2011
While I don't quite enjoy Jeddy's enthusiasm over military applications, ---

hey, i am totally with you, it's just that i gave up being idealistic a while ago. the world is CLEARLY on a path towards massive destruction. that doesn't mean that 7 billiion people are going to die in a big war, but less than 5% of the world population , maybe less than 4%, died in wwii, and now there are 5 billion more people in the world than there were in wwii (2 billion) .

consider that if 1% of the worlds population died today---70,000,000, it would almost be as many died in total in world war ii---approximately 65-75 million people died as a direct result of the war. -----

war is coming because we cannot afford NOT to go to war. fundamentally we're already at war, we're just going to get a lot more of it, and drones are THE defining weapon of this century.

of course, after the next big war, these technologies civilian uses will be unleashed in full force.
gurghet
not rated yet Sep 28, 2011
@jeddy i hope you understand the implication of YOU being in the less than 5% you talk about. War is coming, yes, that does not mean you will survive it, nor any one of us, so giving there is no gain that, lets just be friends.
pauljpease
not rated yet Sep 28, 2011
Weather monitoring, embed sensors on the top to detect UV or other radiation that's entering the atmosphere... optical sensors, gravity sensors... relaying data live... put a solar panel on it and it will fly more than a year non-stop...
Put some relay comms on each one, space them over a few or more kilomters...


This would be truly revolutionary if there were solar panels that were light enough to keep one of these things flying. As someone who flies electric RC planes like these, I can assure you that there are no solar panels that can do the job, currently. Lithium polymer batteries pack a lot of energy per gram.
Nanobanano
1 / 5 (2) Oct 01, 2011
Weather monitoring, embed sensors on the top to detect UV or other radiation that's entering the atmosphere... optical sensors, gravity sensors... relaying data live... put a solar panel on it and it will fly more than a year non-stop...
Put some relay comms on each one, space them over a few or more kilomters...


Yup, use these instead of dropsondes for constant monitoring.

As is, resolution and accuracy of data input is the limiting factor in global forecast models.

It would be neat if you could put small weather station on a swarm of these for extremely good coverage of an entire viewing area, with thermometer, hygrometer, barometer, etc, with GPS
Justsayin
1 / 5 (3) Oct 08, 2011
I see swarming dive bombers going after terrorists on the battlefield.

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