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Tiny Robots Fly in Swarms

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Beth Stackpole
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Another page from Mother Nature
Beth Stackpole   3/2/2012 6:44:39 AM
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I love these examples of research that borrows behaviors or materials qualities from Mother Nature. I get the benefit of the swarm approach for military applications. What other more mainstream/commercial applications might this behavior/capability benefit when it comes to use of robotics?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Another page from Mother Nature
Ann R. Thryft   3/2/2012 11:51:53 AM
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I like the biomicmickry apps, too. I think they're fun, and show how clever we humans can be, imitating Nature (tongue firmly in cheek).

To answer your question, although undisclosed military apps appear to be the main ones for these little robots (which sound like a bunch of big mosquitos in the video), other possibilities include post-disaster rescue work.


apresher
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Nano
apresher   3/2/2012 2:47:39 PM
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Definitely not a nano design by any stretch of the imagination.  But it would be interesting to learn more about the fundamentals.  They seem to fly with a great deal of agility.  Curious about the controls.  Any more information available on this yet, Ann?

Charles Murray
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Re: Nano
Charles Murray   3/2/2012 6:15:58 PM
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The video of the system is awesome. It's amazing how little latency there is in the communications, which enables these devices to swarm in patterns and actually fly in a figure eights.

vimalkumarp
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tiny robots fly in swarms
vimalkumarp   3/3/2012 4:46:23 AM
Janine Benyus would love to showcase this video for her biomimicry demonstrations. This is really an inspiring work and will send the pulse raising for the young engineers. This is the right combination of design, art, symmetry and above all clinical precision. Thanks for this article

Jon Titus
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GRASP Lab and wireless-comm modules
Jon Titus   3/3/2012 1:57:59 PM
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The GRASP Lab at the University of Pennsylvania has its own Web site: https://www.grasp.upenn.edu/, where readers can find more information about the swarms of airborne robotic modules and other fascinating projects.  It's interesting that the lab used the Mica2 "motes" from Crossbow Technology to communicate among themselves. Unfortunately, the company gave up that aspect of communications, although many other companies manufacture wireless-sensor devices.


Libelium, for example, sells a line of Waspmote boards and transceivers, and ANT Wireless has created a protocol for sensor "swarms." Texas Instruments and Nordic Semiconductor have licenses to use the ANT protocol in wireless transceivers. Find more information at: www.nordicsemi.com/eng/Products/ANT and atwww.ti.com/lsds/ti/microcontroller/rf_mcu/product_search.page?family=BTANT.  The ANT protocol communicates over a Bluetooth-type channel and does not use IEEE 802.15.4 radios.

 

Companies such as Texas Instruments and Microchip Technology have their own protocols; SimpliciTI and MiWi respectively, or you can use the basic IEEE 802.15.4 transceivers alone or with a standard ZigBee protocol. The latter protocol, though, requires a lot of software overhead.


Ann R. Thryft
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Re: GRASP Lab and wireless-comm modules
Ann R. Thryft   3/5/2012 12:14:15 PM
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Chuck, I agree, the apparently instantaneous communication is awesome. Jon, thanks for digging up that info from GRASP, which comes from a TED talk given after I filed this story:

http://www.ted.com/talks/vijay_kumar_robots_that_fly_and_cooperate.html There's quite a lot of detail in the TED talk. The swarming technology, such as the protocol created by one of their grad students, is especially interesting, as well as the control algorithms that help the quadrotors create maps and figure out how to navigate obstacles. So is the fact that GRASP is working on different sizes of drones, not just the little quadrotors. I think the transportation, building and post-disaster apps are the most interesting. 


Charles Murray
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Re: GRASP Lab and wireless-comm modules
Charles Murray   3/5/2012 7:27:58 PM
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I don't know how realistic it is, but I have to admit that I do like JPW's python app. Sounds like the beginning of a good reality TV show.

still in 1 Peace
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flying robots in formation
still in 1 Peace   3/3/2012 3:46:23 PM
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If these quadrotors can all lift on the same light-weight carbon fiber beam, they should be able to generate enough net lift to carry objects.   I wonder how many it would take to rescue a human from a mid-stream car top.  Lithium polymer batteries give amazing power to weight capability.

brianpp
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Iron
Re: flying robots in formation
brianpp   3/5/2012 2:39:33 AM
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I am looking forward to use nano quadrotor, hope it must be working good.

Carpet cleaning nyc

JPW
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Python eliminator
JPW   3/5/2012 9:18:52 AM
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I've proposed to friends that these would be great for seeking out and eradicating the Python problem in Florida. Equiped with sensors to search out the Python's and a poison dart they could do quickly what would take us years, if not decades, of dedicated hard work.

I've also considered these for garden patrol, not to kill the offending insects, just to annoy them so they go somewhere else.

Boy, sounds lot like those things in the Matrix.

ChasChas
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robotic Shriners
ChasChas   3/5/2012 9:45:11 AM
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Looks like robotic Shriners performing.

Might be great for keeping military aircraft in formation and give the pilots more time to scan the skies for the enemy.

Are they just in sync or do they actually comunicate with each other?

AJ2X
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Re: robotic shriners
AJ2X   3/5/2012 11:32:57 AM
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Heh heh -- I do love the term "robotic Shriners."  Sounds like something from a Futurama episode.  It does seem appropriate for that figure-8 demo.

This is very cool stuff.  I wonder what technology is used to have each 'copter locate itself in space, with respect to its neighbors.  At their size, an inch or two of mislocation could be disastrous.

Though no claim was made for swarm behavior, I saw the video below a couple days before reading this piece, and think  the two groups should get together. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_sUeGC-8dyk

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: robotic shriners
Ann R. Thryft   3/5/2012 12:44:13 PM
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AJ2X, check out the TED talk video:

http://www.ted.com/talks/vijay_kumar_robots_that_fly_and_cooperate.html 

There's a lot more info in here--finally!--from the head of the GRASP Lab Vijay Kumar. Before this was posted last week, there was almost no info on how these little guys work, or even what their capabilities are.


Ann R. Thryft
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Re: robotic shriners
Ann R. Thryft   3/8/2012 4:07:55 PM
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The robots use some kind of continuously adjusted mapping functions to locate themselves in space and explore unknown environments, as Kumar states in the TED talk video:

http://www.ted.com/talks/vijay_kumar_robots_that_fly_and_cooperate.html I don't know if that technology is based on SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping), but I wouldn't be surprised. It's pretty popular for this type of application.

BTW, the robots in the story are the same robots from the U of PA GRASP Lab that play the James Bond theme in that video.


warren@fourward.com
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Re: robotic shriners
warren@fourward.com   5/10/2012 2:02:16 PM
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It's funny how we used to think about how much memory it would take for such a task and know it was totally unrealistic.  Now, it is reality.  We have the memory and processing power.  Now we just have to work out the "bugs."

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: robotic shriners
Ann R. Thryft   5/11/2012 12:49:42 PM
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Warren, I hear you. The huge advances in semiconductor shrinks and system-on-chip have made processors and memory capable of such feats, as well as big reductions in sensor size and rise in abilities because of MEMS technology.

Jon Titus
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Re: robotic Shriners
Jon Titus   3/5/2012 12:36:00 PM
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As far as the information goes, the robotic devices communicate with each other.  I can't recall whether they use GPS, but suspect at least the base station would use it.

oldtimer8080
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Crichton did it already...
oldtimer8080   3/5/2012 11:25:56 PM
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Read " PREY " for the NEGATIVE possibilities of swarm biotechnology mimicry.

This fairly good read involves mixing this technology with AI and is something to consider if people want to take that step.

We already have the problem with these flyers violating trespassing laws ( and the resultant attempts to recover these " spies " on private property ).

I know that if something shows up on my property, I have a HERF cannon that can take it down. Good luck on getting it back. Finders keepers still apply.

 

 

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Crichton did it already...
Ann R. Thryft   3/6/2012 12:51:04 PM
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Hey, oldtimer8080, I did read PREY. It was very scary. In fact, I thought of that book when I saw the first video on these little robots, although I think they are also cool. I hadn't thought about the invasion of private property issues, good point. Your 'tude sounds like the 'tude of many of my neighbors up here in the mountains. 


Jack Rupert, PE
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Re: Crichton did it already...
Jack Rupert, PE   3/11/2012 2:55:15 PM
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Oldtimer8080 - I was thinking the same thing when I started reading the article.  Happily, these robots aren't small enough to sneak under doors...YET!

Charles Murray
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Re: Crichton did it already...
Charles Murray   3/16/2012 7:29:48 PM
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Jack: Didn't the robots do something similar in iRobot? I seem to remember a scene where "robotic spiders" snuck under a door to look for a criminal suspect.

warren@fourward.com
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Re: Crichton did it already...
warren@fourward.com   5/10/2012 1:58:46 PM
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You do know that was just a movie and not real?  :-)

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Crichton did it already...
Ann R. Thryft   5/11/2012 12:48:36 PM
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Jack, wait 'til you see the much smaller flying bug in an upcoming robot slideshow: it's about the size of a quarter. I think that one will fit under the door. Not only that, but these are self-assembling: shades of Crichton!

Jack Rupert, PE
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Re: Crichton did it already...
Jack Rupert, PE   5/12/2012 7:08:28 PM
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I look forward to reading about it Ann.  I imagine that that design is primarily for military and/or law enforcement applications?

Ann R. Thryft
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Re: Crichton did it already...
Ann R. Thryft   5/14/2012 1:05:25 PM
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Jack, most of the swarming and flying robots, along with a lot of other robot research, seem to be funded by the military, usually DARPA. The one I mentioned also appears to be aimed at military applications.

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