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Wireless Networking Software Toys Hardware Linux

Unmanned Aircraft Clustered via Bluetooth 189

Posted by timothy
from the zip-around-the-room dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at the University of Essex are using Linux and tiny embedded computer modules to build fleets of unmanned aircraft that fly in flocking formations like birds, while performing parallel, distributed computing tasks using Bluetooth-connected Linux clustering software. The Gridswarm project includes model trainers that can fly 120mph, while a parallel Ultraswarm project uses co-axial helicopters. A prototype of the later is believed to the world's smallest flying web server. The aircraft will run Linux on embedded computing modules from Gumstix."
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Unmanned Aircraft Clustered via Bluetooth

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  • Flcoking Behavior (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Cryptacool (98556) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @12:31AM (#12551625)
    As an A-LIFE dork I think the fact that they got these planes to exhibit true (if they arent lying little light on details) flocking behavior, it's not hard to make things flock it takes basically 3 instructions.

    1) Follow the plane/bird in front of you
    2) Go about as fast as the plane/birds around you
    3) Don't hit other birds/planes, keep a reasonable distance.

    Emergent behavior is really amazing if you are interested in it some more check out alife9.org Its the website of the last alife conference in boston that took place over the summer, really neat stuff in there.
  • familiar (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @12:32AM (#12551628)
    I saw this on an episode of tale-spin once
  • Want funding? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by MoralHazard (447833) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @12:37AM (#12551647)
    I'm amazed that the article didn't include any references to "Homeland Security" or "fighting terrorism". Doesn't it seem like every single goddamned new idea, or retread of an old one, gets stretched in the marketing to push the security applications for terrorism?

    Where there's money, though...
  • by Supp0rtLinux (594509) <Supp0rtLinux@yahoo.com> on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @01:17AM (#12551821)
    Sounds like something out of Michael Crichton's Prey [barnesandnoble.com]

    My Treo/PDA/Smartphone Optimized Site [nccomp.com]
  • by phloydphreak (691922) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @01:50AM (#12551959) Journal
    I agree with the why; no matter how cool it would be to be sniffing for wifi and running across the webservers' routing from my home machine, it seems silly to exert so much effort (read money) for the effect. Maybe is is useful for someone who does not want their website to be tracked by big brother(tm)... which is feasible in the US now-a-days. Yet just by doing that, one would need to be using open AP's that one is flying by, just asking for Federal Freddy to not so proverbially nail your ass to the proverbial wall.

    Yet I disagree with the blimp. You have to be able to upload your requests, meaning you will need an amplified radio to communicate to the blimp, leading to alot of crosstalk. Same problem with the orbital idea. If you want to solve this problem with uber-transmitters like satellite dishes, you are looking at (i dont remember exactly from cs 428, but somewhere in the range of) 128kbps u/l and 64-48kbps d/l.
  • Re:Want funding? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by manojar (875389) <kmanoj32@yahoo. c o .in> on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @02:09AM (#12552026) Homepage
    because that is being done in the UK, where homeland security is the bobbies protecting the crown and her jewels.
  • by jnf (846084) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @02:13AM (#12552039)
    if nothing else think of the implications of a highly mobile (flying) intranet- the original design was to survive a nuclear holocaust and this further helps that (although i doubt it gets high enough to really make a different)-- however it is a step in that direction. Also, think of military uses, again it would need to be high altitude to be really usable but a highly mobile communications system could replace microwave point to point communications in that sense. but hell, i really dont know what im talking about it's just what popped into my head.
  • Re:Flcoking Behavior (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dmaduram (790744) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @02:23AM (#12552073) Homepage

    Hmm, I could be wrong about this, but flocking behavior is *vastly* more complex than the three points that listed in the parent's post.

    From what I understand, flocking doesn't result from just 'following the birds adjacent to you', but instead a result of optimizing a complex multiplanar lifting system [aerodyn.org] in order to reduce total flight power demand.

    Honestly, I'd be suprised if the researchers were able to emulate the real purpose of a flock, instead of just emulating superficial swarming behavior -- there was a very readable article in Science written by two guys at Caltech on flight efficiency & flocking [davidslife.com], and they conclude with the premise that: "theoretically 25 birds could have a range increase of about 70 percent as compared with a lone bird"

    IMO, programmed swarming behavior is nothing new, but if these researchers run with the ball and generate *real* efficiency-optimizing flocking behavior with man-made aircraft, the ramifactions could be huge.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @03:20AM (#12552278)
    The following are obvious ideas, but maybe publishing them could prevent patenting.
    * A queue of cars is also like a flock
    * Onboard computers can co-operate in helping drive the cars, or entirely drive the cars
    * The cars can use a suitable operating system, such as Linux.
    * The cars can communicate through radio, light, sound etc., using any protocol, for example blue-tooth.
    * At a junction, any car can choose to leave its current flock and join one heading more towards the car's destination.
    * Each flock of cars uses external navigation information from satellites, broadcast radio, networks such as the Internet, contactless chips in the road surface, etc.
    * The flock co-operates to receive navigation information, giving greater total bandwidth and better positional accuracy.
    * Flocks share information with other flocks, reducing the effect of traffic jams.
    * A car can reserve a parking place or other service, to be ready as (or just before) it arrives.
    * A driver can pay money to adjust the priority of his or her car, giving it priority when cars decide who should overtake, or who should go in the "fast lane", or park closest to their exact destination.
  • Military uses? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by david.heyman (36692) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @03:54AM (#12552391) Homepage
    I can see how parts of this might be interesting in a military application. Run several UAV [af.mil]'s in formation with one person controlling them. Use the bluetooth to enable them to triangulate positions and keep from getting too close to one another.
  • by myowntrueself (607117) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @04:23AM (#12552471)
    I was thinking something similar, except more along the lines of 'the days of the strategic bomber are numbered'.

    Clusters such as you describe might be the killer defense that could render the strategic bomber vulnerable and obsolete.
  • by surprise_audit (575743) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @05:10AM (#12552669)
    Given that there's a limit to the amount of cpu power that can fit into any given size of airplane, the flying cluster can have much higher "brainpower" than a single vehicle. If nothing else, it should allow the cluster to more easily recognise objects, threats, etc without having to refer back to an operator.

    And as you say, there's builtin redundancy, so that maybe the cluster could decide to risk a member by letting it peek around or over an object while the main group stays safe. Also, members could be "dropped off" to act as communication relays if necessary. And then there's the attraction of having multiple eyes viewing the target from different directions...

  • HIgh Altitiude? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by bigattichouse (527527) on Tuesday May 17, 2005 @08:27AM (#12554036) Homepage
    How about a swarm of high altitude balloons that form a telescope array? using their fans, they can stay in relative position to one another.

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