In the future, a swarm of flying robots may do the work now done by human search teams.
A robotics research team at the University of Pennsylvania has designed a system to coordinate a number of small quadcopters, a step toward coordinating multiple robots for tasks such as surveillance or searching areas after a disaster.
The General Robotics, Automation, Sensing, and Perception (GRASP) lab at UPenn yesterday posted a video on You Tube with nano quadcopters showing remarkable agility and the ability to perform as a team.
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The quadcopters are able to flip over and maintain flight. More amazing (unnerving?) is their operation in formation. Based on commands, 16 quadcopters change direction, land, navigate past obstacles, and even fly in a figure-eight formation.
Coordinating the action of multiple robots is one of the big technical challenges in robotics research now. Small robots, such as these nano quadcopters, could be well-suited for certain missions, but people need methods for programming small, inexpensive robots in large groups rather than manually configuring each one.