Daily Mail – by SARAH GRIFFITHS
Flying robots that can ‘think’ for themselves are already being developed, which some people fear will be able to snoop on and attack people living below.
And now a team of Hungarian scientists have managed to engineer the first ‘flock’ of drones that can fly as a coordinated group.
The collection of 10 copters can fly in formation, follow a leader and change flight patterns without human input, to act a little like migratory birds.
The drones are commercially available quadcopters – with four rotor blades – but have specially designed hardware on board that allow them to act as a swarm.
Created by scientists at Eötvös Loránd University in Budapest, the drones navigate using signals from GPS receivers and let each other know their positions via radio, Nature reported.
The researchers’ breakthrough could mean that flocks of autonomous flying robots could take to the skies sooner than previously thought.
Experts created their own computer simulation after fitting tiny GPS trackers to pigeons (stock image pictured) to see how the birds fly as a flock and used the knowledge to inform the behaviour of their drones
Tamás Vicsek, a physics professor at the university, explained that the group of 10 drones can coordinate their movements to form circles or lines, which could be useful if one day the technology is used to create swarms of surveillance drones.
He and his team was inspired to create the robots after seeing a 1986 computer game called Boids that simulated flying objects according to three rules – alignment, attraction and repulsion – so that robots could fly in formation without crashing into each other.
The scientists created their own computer simulation (pictured) after fitting tiny GPS trackers to pigeons. While some people might fear that swarms of thinking drones could prove a surveillance menace, the scientists said they could be used for many peaceful applications, such as delivering food
They created their own computer simulation using the same ideas after fitting tiny GPS trackers to pigeons to see how they fly as a flock and used the knowledge to inform the behaviour of their drones.
‘We fed flocking algorithms to them so the copters can fly autonomously – totally eliminating the need for manual control,’ Professor Vicsek said.
‘Each has a little brain in the form of an on-board computer and is completely autonomous. All decisions, directions, flight positions are decided by them,’ he explained.
The drones can be instructed to form a circle and they each find a position along it and rotate slowly in the same direction. Their autonomous decisions avoid collisions in the air.
The group of 10 drones can coordinate their movements to form circles (pictured) or lines, which could be useful if one day the technology is used to create swarms of surveillance drones
The researchers had to overcome the challenges of noise and delay, which it hard for copters to ‘see’ each other’s positions and sped up their reaction times. They plan on replacing radio signals with cameras to help the drones ‘see’ one another more easily in the future.
They will present their research at the International Conference on Intelligent Robots and Systems, to be held in Chicago, Illinois in September.
While some people might fear that swarms of thinking drones could prove a surveillance menace, the scientists said they could be used for many peaceful applications, such as delivering food and parcels.
Commenting on the study, Iain Couzin, an expert on collective animal behaviour at Princeton University in New Jersey, told Nature: ‘This is remarkable work. It is the first outdoor demonstration of how biologically inspired rules can be used to create resilient yet dynamic flocks.’
The research suggests that ‘we will be able to achieve large, coordinated robot flocks much sooner than many would have anticipated,’ he added.
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2572067/The-drones-flock-like-BIRDS-Robots-fly-formation-navigate-without-remotely-controlled.html#ixzz2uw5tK4pJ
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