The GRASP Lab research team released no technical details in its latest announcement, which consists only of a very short video. The so-called nano quadrotors are shown performing some pretty amazing swarming behavior and flying in complex formations. The term "nano" is quite a stretch, since their wingspan appears to be about four or five inches. The GRASP Lab's Website says that its researchers are "building autonomous vehicles and robots, developing self-configuring humanoids, and making robot swarms a reality."
The video's voiceover states, "We developed a nano quadrotor capable of agile flight. Multiple vehicles can fly as a formation. We developed a method to transition between formations in 3D. The team can also navigate in environments with obstacles." Up to 20 quadrotors are shown flying in formation through and around various obstacles.
At the end of the video, they fly in a figure eight pattern. Near the end, the video tells us that the quadrotors were developed by KMel Robotics.
Researchers at the GRASP Lab have been working on the quadrotor design since at least 2010, when its first videos were released. In these videos, the most complex thing the quadrotors do is build tower-like cubic structures from modular parts. (You can watch them do that here.)
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.
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.
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.
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.
A recent report sponsored by the American Chemistry Council (ACC) focuses on emerging gasification technologies for converting waste into energy and fuel on a large scale and saving it from the landfill. Some of that waste includes non-recycled plastic.
Capping a 30-year quest, GE Aviation has broken ground on the first high-volume factory for producing commercial jet engine components from ceramic matrix composites. The plant will produce high-pressure turbine shrouds for the LEAP Turbofan engine.
Seismic shifts in 3D printing materials include an optimization method that reduces the material needed to print an object by 85 percent, research designed to create new, stronger materials, and a new ASTM standard for their mechanical properties.
A recent study finds that 3D printing is both cheaper and greener than traditional factory-based mass manufacturing and distribution. At least, it's true for making consumer plastic products on open-source, low-cost RepRap printers.
For industrial control applications, or even a simple assembly line, that machine can go almost 24/7 without a break. But what happens when the task is a little more complex? That’s where the “smart” machine would come in. The smart machine is one that has some simple (or complex in some cases) processing capability to be able to adapt to changing conditions. Such machines are suited for a host of applications, including automotive, aerospace, defense, medical, computers and electronics, telecommunications, consumer goods, and so on. This discussion will examine what’s possible with smart machines, and what tradeoffs need to be made to implement such a solution.