Real-world Swarming

Swarm robotics has spent years- nay, decades- developing algorithms for simulated robots, robotic watercraft, and, yes, unmanned flying ‘bots to fly formation and coverage large areas. Until now, most swarm robotics experiments in the air have involved a small number of robots, countable on just one hand. NPR reported this morning on the research of Timothy Chung at the Naval Postgraduate School, where last week thirty drones were able to self-organize in the air. The NPR story is interesting because you can take a listen to what this will sound like, someday, in a community near you.  It’s also interesting because, in case of a problem, there is a pilot there ready to manually control a drone. So let’s think about that, just for a second. Thirty drones, one R/C plane pilot. What, precisely, will the pilot do when fifteen drones veer off course over a populated area?

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