KentuckyFC writes: Aerial flocking has been a long standing goal for roboticists but the technical demands for autonomous outdoor flocking has 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, GPS receiver and so on 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-organising behaviour when confined to specific volumes of space. Crucially, the flock does not rely on any centralised control for its behaviour.The potential applications are numerous. 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.
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