Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!

 



Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Robotics

First Outdoor Flocks of Autonomous Flying Robots 84

Posted by Soulskill
from the algorithmic-migration-patterns dept.
KentuckyFC writes "Aerial flocking has been a long-standing goal for roboticists, but the technical demands for autonomous outdoor flocking have always been too great. Now a European team has successfully demonstrated autonomous outdoor flocking for the first time, with up to 10 flyers in the air simultaneously for up to 20 minutes. The flyer of choice is the MK Basicset L4-ME made by the German company MikroKopter. They modified this by attaching an extension board carrying a variety of navigational devices such as a gyroscope, accelerometer, and GPS receiver, as well as a wireless communications unit and a minicomputer to calculate trajectories. To simplify these calculations, all the quadcopters fly at the same altitude to make the flocking problem two-dimensional. The team say the quadcopters can fly autonomously in lines and circles, and even demonstrate self-organizing behavior when confined to specific volumes of space. Crucially, the flock does not rely on any centralized control for its behavior. The researchers imagine using them for large-scale, redundant observations over wide areas, perhaps for farming, traffic monitoring and, of course, military purposes. They might even put on aerial displays for entertainment purposes."
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

First Outdoor Flocks of Autonomous Flying Robots

Comments Filter:
  • someone post a link to an actual video of this
  • by X0563511 (793323) on Friday February 28, 2014 @11:53AM (#46368317) Homepage Journal

    We do realize that "minicomputer" means a specific thing [wikipedia.org], and you would probably not want to attach one to a UAV?

    • Minicomputer meant a specific thing to a specific minority of the population.

      How long ago was the last of that type of minicomputer manufactured? Possibly before the article author's birth.

      • Re:Minicomputer? (Score:4, Informative)

        by BattleApple (956701) on Friday February 28, 2014 @12:18PM (#46368563)

        Are you saying we can change the definition of words if they were created before we were born?

        • Are you saying we can change the definition of words if they were created before we were born?

          See: Every modern discussion about the term "regulated" as it appears in the 2nd Amendment.

          To some folks, apparently yes, definitions universally change the moment that individual decides they do.

        • Eight words that have completely changed their meaning:

          http://writinghood.com/style/g... [writinghood.com]

        • We can change the definition of words if they were created after we were born, too. Definitions of words are constantly changing.

          • I know we can, but we don't just do it when we feel like it. There has to be some general consensus. I've never seen the term minicomputer used that way. "Mini computer", maybe. The term "nanocomputer" would have been appropriate here.
            Definitions of words aren't constantly changing. How confusing would that be? They change once in a while.

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        Minicomputer meant a specific thing to a specific minority of the population.

        It still means the same thing to the only people whose opinion matter, the people who use the word on a regular basis. Minis aren't gone.

    • I fear the day that a UAV has the payload capacity available to lift a "minicomputer." Also not to mention what is a pretty impressive feat; being able to have code that can perform all the tasks (quickly), mentioned in the summary, running on a minicomputer. Never mind the ability to lift one.

    • The paper says they are using a computer from Gumstix [gumstix.com].
      The "minicomputer" confusion is from the paper calling them "miniature on-board computers" [arxiv.org].
  • Get lots of them for "fireworks" display!

  • Let me state this once and for all. Any flock of flying robots, autonomous or not, over my head or my property will encounter bags of nails, wires and other terrible obstacles designed to swat them. Just the fact that something is technically possible does not mean we should allow this. Stop the madness!

    • by oodaloop (1229816)

      Let me state this once and for all.

      Awesome. So this means you're not going to bring up your Luddite views again?

    • by wcrowe (94389)

      How close do they really need to be? Can you "swat" them if they're a few hundred feet up?

    • by Thiez (1281866)

      Any flock of flying robots, autonomous or not, over my head or my property will encounter bags of nails, wires and other terrible obstacles designed to swat them.

      Remember kids, what goes up must come down... in unrelated news, people who oppose drones can be recognized by the nails, wires, and other 'terrible obstacles' that embedded in their face.

    • Do you "swat" the airplanes and helicopters that currently fly over your house? What difference does it make if there is a person on board?

      • Do you "swat" the airplanes and helicopters that currently fly over your house?

        If they're flying below the legally established floor, I might consider it.

        91.119 Minimum safe altitudes: General.

        Except when necessary for takeoff or landing, no person may operate an aircraft below the following altitudes:

        (a) Anywhere. An altitude allowing, if a power unit fails, an emergency landing without undue hazard to persons or property on the surface.

        (b) Over congested areas. Over any congested area of a city, town, or settlement, or over any open air assembly of persons, an altitude of 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2,000 feet of the aircraft.

        (c) Over other than congested areas. An altitude of 500 feet above the surface, except over open water or sparsely populated areas. In those cases, the aircraft may not be operated closer than 500 feet to any person, vessel, vehicle, or structure.

        (d) Helicopters. Helicopters may be operated at less than the minimums prescribed in paragraph (b) or (c) of this section if the operation is conducted without hazard to persons or property on the surface. In addition, each person operating a helicopter shall comply with any routes or altitudes specifically prescribed for helicopters by the Administrator.

        and/or operating the craft in an unsafe manner:

        91.13 Careless or reckless operation.

        (a) Aircraft operations for the purpose of air navigation. No person may operate an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.

        (b) Aircraft operations other than for the purpose of air navigation. No person may operate an aircraft, other than for the purpose of air navigation, on any part of the surface of an airport used by aircraft for air commerce (including areas used by those aircraft for receiving or discharging persons or cargo), in a careless or reckless manner so as to endanger the life or property of another.

        What difference does it make if there is a person on board?

        Other than a murder/manslaughter charge vs. possible destruction of property?

        • Other than a murder/manslaughter charge vs. possible destruction of property?

          Don't be a pussy. You have important property rights to defend.

          • Other than a murder/manslaughter charge vs. possible destruction of property?

            Don't be a pussy. You have important property rights to defend.

            Which is incredibly difficult to do from inside a prison cell.

            FWIW, 99.999999999999% of the manned aircraft that fly over my property are A) above the legal flight floor, and B) not being piloted by some irresponsible dickhead who wants to take naked pictures of my wife through our windows. The one's that fail the test of A and B above have to answer to the FAA, so I'm not too worried about them getting away with anything. What I am worried about is douche bags with more money than sense, who are not under

            • worried about is douche bags with more money than sense, who are not under the purview of the FAA,

              How exactly would an aircraft not be under the jurisdiction of the FAA? That's kind of their thing.

              • worried about is douche bags with more money than sense, who are not under the purview of the FAA,

                How exactly would an aircraft not be under the jurisdiction of the FAA? That's kind of their thing.

                http://investigations.nbcnews.... [nbcnews.com]

                Until the FAA actually creates and enforces a set of regulations in regards to UAV/S, it's going to continue to be like an airborne Wild West.

  • Seems kind of gimmicky: more of a PR stunt than actual, you know, technological innovation.
  • This is a network in the sky.....
  • Is this horrendously upscaled JPEG [cloudfront.net] all we're going to get?

  • by JMZero (449047) on Friday February 28, 2014 @12:51PM (#46368831) Homepage

    I've seen people doing flocking demonstrations for years, and it seems like something robot tinkerers spend significant time on. And it usually involves this:

    Crucially, the flock does not rely on any centralized control for its behavior.

    Why? Why is that crucial? Why not let the robots communicate with a central control? I understand that's not how animals do it, but animals don't have, like, RF glands. To be clear, there's no reason the central control couldn't be in one of the robots (and there's no reason the "central" robot needs to be statically defined, they could instantly elect a new one if the old one dropped out or something). It's only a difficult problem in practice, but there's not really a practical reason to impose this restriction.

    Where's the big downside of a central control? The upside is the practical problem is way easier. And it is really just a practical problem - the theoretical flocking problem is much easier and can be thought about much simpler in simulation.

    In general, robot tinkerers seem to spend a ton of time making up odd, practical problems that don't need practical solutions. Like the dudes a few SlashDot stories ago that were inventing a way for robots to communicate facts to each other without sharing any kind of pre-defined language. The communication thing is an interesting, useful problem - but it has nothing to do with robots, and doing it with actual robots just adds a bunch of extraneous hassles. It'd be like building counting robots to move abacuses so you could to math theory.

    I mean, if you're actually building robots that need to communicate, you can just have them able to communicate in a non-ridiculous way because we know how to have computers communicate at a distance. Just like you don't need a robot to be able to physically manipulate an abacus (at least not in order to help it count).

    • The big problem is the TIME needed to switch Command Units given say 30 "bots"
      you have to
      1 time out on the current commander (lets say several seconds)
      2 somehow given 29 "bots" sort out who will be the best new Commander
      3 setup the needed links

      all of this while doing what the Flock is supposed to be doing

      i could see a guy with a shotgun downing the Command Unit(s) faster than they can switch over.

      (of course i can also see the bots deciding at about CU #14 to "frack this Mission is FUBAR RTB now!")

      • by JMZero (449047)

        1. I don't see any reason for a long timeout - they should be in continuous communication. They should be able to rotate command 1000 times a second if they wanted to. Computers and communication are fast.
        2. This doesn't need to be some complicated algorithm or something. They're all sharing information, so they should all be suited for command - just have the next bot in the sequence do it.
        3. I think, at this point in communication theory, we could probably design a protocol whereby we don't need, like,

  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Friday February 28, 2014 @12:53PM (#46368851)

    Hurray, hurray, it's the First of May!

    Outdoor flocking starts today!

  • how the hell did this guy secure a FP7 grant to make a couple of quadricopters fly in circles?

"Free markets select for winning solutions." -- Eric S. Raymond

Working...