Scientists from Chinas Zhejiang University have sampled and recorded a drone swarm that is capable of navigating through dense areas, such as forests using AI and without human guidance.
The swarm is built up of 10 hand sized drones which communicate with one another, allowing them to stay in formation whilst using their built-in depth sensing camera to map out their surroundings and further collect data. The reason for the number of drones used is so as if the path of one of the drones is blocked, the data collected from the other 9 drones allows them to plot a new route and reform as a pack. Furthermore, their sensors then allows the drones to track a moving object or a human within the same environment; meaning if one drone loses sight of the target the others can pick it back up, this is useful as not only can these drones track humans they can also track themselves using gps to know their whereabouts. This is useful in situations such as warfare, tracking criminal activities and in future prospects helping emergency services.
Wrote by scientists in a paper published in the journal Science Robotics “In natural disasters like earthquakes and floods, a swarm of drones can search, guide, and deliver emergency supplies to trapped people,” they wrote. “For example, in wildfires, agile multicopters can quickly collect information from a close view of the front line without the risk of human injury.”
An illustration from the paper showing how multiple drones can be used to track a target even if the view from one drone is blocked. Image: Science Robotics / Xin Zhou et al
This research also has potential to be advanced in the military. These swarms are already being developed and tested in a number on nations across the world that could be used in war, the intention of their use would be mainly for surveillance, but this technology could certainly be used for both tracking and attacking combatants and civilians in the future.
Drone technology has seen a rapid increase in the adaptation for the battlefield, this has recently been shown in the war between Russia and Ukraine. These drones are cheap compared to the other choice of offence with drones being as cheap as $500 and have been used to drop grenades on opposing forces, and in the future are planned to be involved on the battlefield much more. The thing that makes these drones more dangerous is their autonomy, this is because no 10 humans can simultaneously control the swarm, but as this task can be offloaded due to algorithms, military planners are very likely to adapt this and use this technology system in war.
Currently, the technology within drone swarms isn’t advanced enough for countries to develop huge quantities of them and are currently limited to drones preforming things such as light shows. This is easier to program for us as the drones have a built in algorithm for them to follow, then they simply preform the algorithm further creating the light show. However, this research made allows for these drones to fly without built in algorithms and prior mapping of their environments. This was the first example of the research of drone swarms being put into practice and successfully flying within unknown environments.
Nowadays we’ve been so used to technology that sometimes we don’t even stop to think about how it can make our lives easier. We don’t exactly know how far the advancement of drones can go in the future, however, what we do know is LapCabby is always there to supply you with options to be able to charge, store and secure your devices.
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