June 10, 2010
Scientists Develop Mini Robots That Fly In A Swarm
Scientists have developed robots that are able to "dock" with each other and fly together in a swarm.
Using infrared beams, the drones can find each other's location and connect with one another using magnets.
The vehicles, or quadrocopters, have fixed propellers that help them lift up in the air, but the resulting flight is erratic and uncontrolled.
However, once they are joined with other quadrocopters, the robots evolve into a sophisticated multi-propeller system capable of coordinated flight.
Each helicopter uses its own motor, computer and sensors.
Each vehicle is also equipped with a mini-propeller duct system for flying, along with little wheels underneath to allow them to crawl around the ground and find each other.
When joined together, the group can keep itself level by using altitude sensors in each robot that speaks to one another using infrared to make sure the flight is even.
Even if one robot in the swarm fails, the others are able to reposition themselves to keep the aircraft flying.
The robots can exchange information and combine this with their own sensor measurements to determine how much thrust is needed to take-off.
The robots are able to detach their magnetic docking system and separate and drop to the ground when the flight is over.
Even if the robots were attacked, they are able to detach from each other and then find one another and reform on the ground.
Each vehicle can individually determine the amount of thrust required to correct for the disturbance based on its own position.
The "Distributed Flight Array" can, in theory, be scaled up to contain any number of individual robots.
The system would be extremely useful for carrying large loads that are too heavy for individual robots.
Researchers at the Swiss Institute of Technology in Zurich developed the technology.
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