Last year, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Grasp (General Robotics, Automation, Sensing & Perception) Lab gathered a dozen or so quadrotor unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), programmed them to work in concert, and set them loose on a roomful of improvised instruments. The hovering swarm dutifully reproduced the James Bond theme song.
In biology, a swarm is a collection of individuals that manifest complex behavior without a leader calling the shots. Imagine birds spontaneously gathering on a single tree, only to lift off en masse moments later. Scientists have applied swarm intelligence to driving robots, but they now have the processing power and sensing capability to apply it to flying ones too.
To achieve a swarm, scientists program each unit with a set of simple rules. For example: Maintain constant separation, steer in the same direction, and always move toward the center of the swarm. The result is a mass of individuals that can move as a group. Scientists at Grasp recently used a UAV swarm to pick up and haul heavy objects.
There are many applications for UAV swarms, says Vijay Kumar, former director of Grasp. The most immediate could be search and rescue: A swarm could cover a lot of ground quickly and would require only one operator. Another could be exploration. Swarms could scan high-risk buildings and sites (think Fukushima post-tsunami) rapidly, whereas larger UAVs cannot.
Others see even greater possibility. At Harvard, scientists on the RoboBees project are developing swarms of robotic insects that could be used for crop pollination, surveillance, or monitoring traffic. A group of researchers in Switzerland recently developed a concept to use a UAV swarm as a distributed computing and communications network to assist emergency workers in disaster areas.
Swarming UAVs could also play a role in defense: An attack could overwhelm standard missile-defense systems, so Timothy Chung, an assistant professor at the Naval Postgraduate School, has developed his Swarm vs. Swarm Grand Challenge. Chung plans to pit two teams of 50 UAVs against one another to refine countermeasures. If he's right, the only army big enough to stop a swarm . . . is another swarm.
This article originally appeared in the July 2013 issue of Popular Science. See the rest of the magazine here.
I wonder how a UAV react to being hit with a yagi directional high powered microwave burst or laser burst? This type of energy beem does not necessarily have to destroy the plane itself, but only needs to scramble the electronic brains of the unit.
Another possible counter messure would be EMP bombs as well.
Combine this with the abilities of NSA we have learned about, we can send out a swarm to round up and individual or group of people, via their communications, public cameras and facial recognigiton software.
Osama Bin Laden number 2 guy had a bunker busting bomb dropped on him, when he used his cell phone.
I think you're missing the point. The vulnerabilities of the individual UAV's are reduced by the swarm effect. Also, the simplicity of the UAV's limit their individual usefulness. However, when massed they may create new dimensions of strength.
Military ships use Anti Air Warfare systems to stop a swarm of incoming missiles for years now.
@Jon.paton & StarShineBright
Swarms take their strength in numbers, and I can think of very few weapon systems that can take out a dozen drones all a meter in length/width, and they would all be very expensive.
Individual drones do not have to be tech heavy, just operatable and be able to do their specific function.
To link multiple drone processing computers and have them share data, the swarm would become much more dangerous than individually acting apart within the swarm.
If we are to perfect these kinds of technologies, we need more prosperous ideas.
red alert! red alert! red alert! red alert! FLYINGLAZERS INCOMING!! Have a nice day :)(BOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)
This is just one of many weapons defense systems.
Phalanx Close In Weapon System CIWS & SeaRAM Anti Ship Missile Defense System .
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Here's a swarm scenario: local retailer thinks you are a shoplifter (though you are not), whereupon a $10/hr security guard transmits your face to the local law folks' computer which in turn auto-loads the image into the swarm watch-list database. The next time you go shopping, you'll look up and see 1 or 2 drones following you around while you run your errands. If a cop nearby on the ground isn't busy, s/he might receive an alert to swing by and have a look, too. And just think how the TSA, which will also have the information, will view you during your next trip through security at the airport. The possibilities are just endless. The DHS multi-billion$ budget will be safe for decades to come, and several big info tech companies will have steady orders and upgrades. Oh hey ... I hope you're not part of any political opposition and planning any rallies in 2014 or 2016. It's nice to be loved isn't it?
just as Linda explained I am shocked that a mom can profit $6614 in a few weeks on the computer. did you look at this page.... www.bay95.com
A future airship operator carrying drones/planes will say "The Carrier has arrived".