A team of scientists have created drones that can independently arrange in formations and coordinate flight patterns. via Nature:
The aircraft, called quadcopters because they have four rotors, navigate using signals from Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers, communicate their positions to one another via radio and compute their own flight plans. They were created by a team of scientists led by Tamás Vicsek, a physicist at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest.
“This is remarkable work,” says Iain Couzin, who studies collective animal behaviour at Princeton University in New Jersey. “It is the first outdoor demonstration of how biologically inspired rules can be used to create resilient yet dynamic flocks. [It suggests] we will be able to achieve large, coordinated robot flocks much sooner than many would have anticipated.”
Drones are typically designed to fly alone, and although other research groups have created flocks before, Vicsek says that those attempts involved cutting some corners — the copters were restricted to indoor arenas or controlled by a central computer.
According to Vicsek, the only other truly autonomous drone flock was created in 2011 by robotics researcher Dario Floreano at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne1. But his machines were fixed-wing fliers that could move only at constant speeds and had to fly at different heights to avoid collisions. “It looked like a swarm but wasn’t a real one because they didn’t interact with one another,” says Vicsek. By contrast, his drones can coordinate their movements to form rotating rings or straight lines. If Vicsek tells them that they face a wall with a gap in it, they can queue up to squeeze through.
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