Drone Swarm Can Explore Unknown Environments By Themselves

Researchers have created a swarm of small drones that are capable of exploring unknown environments by themselves. The scientists say that the research surrounding the drone swarm is a significant step in the field of swarm robotics. The drones in the swarm are small and weigh in at 33g.

Despite the small size and weight of the devices, they must be able to navigate in the environment autonomously. The team says that a swarm of smaller flying drones can explore a disaster site much faster than a single larger drone. Scientists at TU Defly, University of Liverpool, and Radbound University of Nijmegen have been working on the research for the last four years.

The main idea of the drone swarm is that in the future, rescue workers could release a swarm of tiny drones to explore a disaster site like a building that is about to collapse. The swarm can enter the building, explore it, and come back to the base station with relevant information. The information returned will allow workers to focus rescue efforts on the correct portion of the building.

In testing, the tiny drones were fitted with cameras and sent into an office building to find two dummies. Within six minutes, a swarm of 6 drones was able to explore about 80% of the open rooms. The swarm also allows for redundancy. The team says that one of the drones found a dummy, but a camera failure left it unable to bring back images. However, another drone in the swarm had captured images.

The team focused first on basic flight capability when building the drones. They then focused on a method for the drones to detect and avoid each other. The team ultimate used a wireless communication chip and used the signal strength between chis to make the drones move away from each other. Research is ongoing.