SWARMing to the Rescue
At the intersection of artificial intelligence, control theory, robotics, systems engineering and biology, you’ll find researchers at Penn Engineering’s GRASP lab working to understand swarming behaviors found in nature. Swarming behaviors, such as those exhibited by flocks of birds or schools of fish, are observed in order to extract data about locomotion, communication and group cooperation. This data is then developed into algorithms, advancing the body of knowledge in this ever-changing field.
These algorithms are developed so that robotics scientists in the GRASP lab and other institutions can apply biologically-inspired models of swarm behaviors to large networked groups of autonomous vehicles. By developing a framework and methodology for swarming behaviors, Penn Engineering researchers hope to discover if autonomously functioning vehicles can be deployed in the form of a swarm and conduct a mission and respond to commands as a group.
For example, in a combat or defense mission, groups of swarming robots could fly or roll through dangerous territories, exploring terrain, structures and gathering other reconnaissance data to identify possible dangers before humans enter the area. In such a swarming situation, if some robots are destroyed, the others would continue the mission unaffected, giving soldiers the information they need to make decisions and in the end limiting the number of human casualties.
Other possible future uses of this technology include using robots as cooperating first responders to disaster sites, search and rescue missions, cargo handling and traffic reduction. This research will most definitely enhance the future of military and first response technologies, allowing for an increased use of unmanned vehicles to conduct surveillance, intelligence and rescue missions, lessening human casualties on the battlefield and at home.
Credit: Penn Engineering Magazine, “Breakthroughs in Teamwork: Penn Engineering Innovates as Leader of Robotics Consortium,” by Jessica Stein Diamond.
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