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Tiny Robots Swarm, Fly in Formation

February 16, 2012 — They sound like a swarm of wasps that makes you want to run and get out of the way. But this swarm - or Scalable sWarms of Autonomous Robots and Mobile Sensors - will have you stopped and staring in disbelief as these wasps - nano quadrotors - fly in formation, even flying figure eights, while also flying around obstacles.

Developed by a research team at the University of Pennsylvania, in collaboration with KMel Robotics, the SWARMS project brings together experts in artificial intelligence, control theory, robotics, systems engineering, and biology. Its goal is to understand swarming behaviors in nature and identify models for swarm behavior in large networked groups of autonomous vehicles. The research could lead to the development of engineered systems equipped with multi-vehicle sensing and control to carry out missions with the ability to respond as a group to high-level commands.

The Verge reports that each of the nano quadrotors, or small robots that engage in complex social movements, is self-sensing, allowing it to accurately position itself and maintain its balance through even the most complex of movements.

Researchers at GRASP Lab at the University of Pennsylvania have been working with nano quadrotors since at least 2010, a Washington Post blog reported. Past YouTube videos have shown the nano quadrotors flying aggressively or building a tower structure.

But the latest YouTube video, posted earlier this month, shows the nano quadrotors flying in perfect formation. CNET reported that the research is a step toward coordinating robots for searching areas after a disaster, or for surveillance.


A new YouTube video showing tiny nano quadrotors flying in formation has had more than 5 million views since it was posted online earlier this year.

The tiny robots know how to fly around obstacles.

The nano quadrotors fly a Figure 8.

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