“Nature may not proactively use mathematics, nor does it have foresight. It behaves in ways driven by feedback, implicit drive for adaptation, and a certain degree of apparent randomness,” said Souma Chowdhury, PhD, assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering in the University at Buffalo’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. “But we can look at what kind of mathematical principles define that behavior. Once we have that, we can use it to solve very complex problems.”
Chowdhury is pioneering a way to program a team of drones to quickly map an oil spill. His computational efforts, in a paper which he co-authored with UB students Zachary Ball and Philip Odonkor, were presented in January at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics’ Science and Technology Forum. The study, called “A Swarm-Intelligence Approach to Oil Spill Mapping using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles,” optimized and simulated a five-drone swarm that can map a nearly one-kilometer wide spill in nine minutes.
To make that work, Chowdhury had to overcome the lack of communication bandwidth typical of a flying ad hoc network and the short battery life of off-the-shelf drones.
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