October 23, 2012
Researchers Demonstrate Swarm Robot Behaviour Coordinated By Flying Drones
|This past month a team of researchers presented a paper demonstrating their use of flying quadrotor drones to communicated and direct ground-based self-assembling swarm robots. The drone can communicate to individual robots on the ground via colored LEDs. This scenario gives the entire swarm a more effective view of their environment and helps them navigate obstacles much better.|
What the researchers found though was that the limited view the individual robots had of their environment limited the effectiveness of the system. The solution was to incorporate flying drones that could help coordinate the activities of the ground-based self-assemblers.
Complicating the issue was the fact that having the drone directly communicate with a specific ground unit was difficult. The team came up with a solution using colored LEDs and a type of Simon game to quickly and effectively limit the communication chanel between the flying and ground units.
To get this to work, the team used a simple array of lights, cameras, and some mildly intelligent robots.
As interesting as the communication is, it's the applications that really make this video worth watching.
Since the ground robots can't see very far, they rely on the quadrotor to scout ahead and estimate the parameters of upcoming obstacles. Then, the quadrotor instructs the swarm on the ground how to team up to best overcome those obstacles. With the hill, for example, the quadrotor can use stereo imagery to compute how steep it is, run an onboard simulation to see how many ground robots will have to team up to make it over, and then give instruction and direction to the robots below.
"Spatially Targeted Communication and Self-Assembly," by Nithin Mathews, Anders Lyhne Christensen, Rehan O’Grady, and Marco Dorigo, from Universite Libre de Bruxelles and Instituto Universitario de Lisboa, was presented at IROS 2012 in Vilamoura, Portugal.
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