Feeds

Hungarian eggheads unleash not-at-all-scary DRONE SWARM

Q: What's more terrifying than it sounds? A: Flock of autonomous aerial robots

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

Vid Researchers have taught flying drones to behave like birds, clearing the way for further development of technologies to marshal swarms of unmanned aerial vehicles.

In a paper titled Outdoor flocking and formation flight with autonomous aerial robots boffins from Budapet's Eötvös University Department of Biological Physics describe how they have been able to teach quadcopters to flock – an approach that lets them work like swarms of birds, traveling in a self-adjusting, self-stabilizing fleet that doesn't need to communicate back to a central controller.

The dry language of the paper almost hides the astonishing implications of this advance.

"We achieved self-propelled flocking in a bounded area with self-organized object avoidance capabilities and performed collective target tracking with stable formation flights," the researchers wrote.

Translation: our flying robots can move in a swarm without colliding and are able to either chase or hover above a target.

Youtube video of the drones in action

Potential applications of the technology are varied, but we imagine a variety of military research labs are commissioning feasibility studies of equipping some of these quadcopters with armaments and others with cameras, then having them work together to spot, track, and ultimately target an object.

"Our main goal was to show that the various peaceful applications of drones are by now feasible," the researchers stated before envisaging applications like ad-hoc swarm-based mobile networks, self-organizing environment monitoring, stock delivery, and rescue operation assistance.

This advance represents an important step [shouldn't that be flight? flap? – Ed] forward in drone swarm technology, which has a large number of applications in areas varying from data collection to astonishingly effective hunter-killer scenarios.

At the moment, drones are typically flown on a solo basis either manually or along predefined routes. What the researchers work demonstrates is a way to quickly form ad-hoc networks of drones that can fly together in a self-stabilizing formation, while following a target.

For the experiment they used off-the-shelf commercial quadcopters from MikroKopter Co, along with a custom autopilot board loaded with flocking algorithms.

This addition board contained a 3D gyroscope, a 3D accelerometer, a 3D magnetometer, a pressure sensor, a GPS receiver, a 2.4GHz XBee unit – "flock members process incoming XBee packets only from other robots, which are inside their communication range (typically around 50–100m). That is similar to the way birds fly in a flock," they wrote – and a GumStix Overo Water mini-computer loaded with Linux.

"The true advantage of a flocking flight over a single flying robot stands in its increased ‘awareness’, robustness and redundancy," they explained. "The flock, as a meta-unit, can detect the environment more efficiently and can operate much longer than its members individually."

The research was supported by the EU ERC COLLMOT project. ®

Reducing security risks from open source software

More from The Register

next story
Carlos: Slim your working week to just three days of toil
'Midas World' vision suggests you retire later, watch more tellie and buy more stuff
Motorist 'thought car had caught fire' as Adele track came on stereo
'FIRE' caption on dashboard prompts dunderheaded hard shoulder halt
Brit Rockall adventurer poised to quit islet
Occupation records broken, champagne corks popped
Accused! Yahoo! exec! SUES! her! accuser!, says! sex! harassment! never! happened!
Allegations were for 'financial gain', countersuit claims
Yahoo! Japan! launches! service! for! the! dead!
If you're reading this email, I am no longer alive
Plucky Rockall podule man back on (proper) dry land
Bold, barmy Brit adventurer Nick Hancock escapes North Atlantic islet
NSA man: 'Tell me about your Turkish connections'
Spooks ask Dabbsy to suggest a nice hotel with pool
Japanese artist cuffed for disseminating 3D ladyparts files
Printable genitalia fall foul of 'obscene material' laws
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.