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Watch a Drone Swarm Fly Through a Fake Forest Without Crashing

the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Lausanne
Nature Machine Intelligence
Carnegie Mellon
Eötvös Loránd University
Arizona State University
Condé Nast
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Max G. LevyTo
Enrica Soria
‪Amir Barati Farimani
Gábor Vásárhelyi
Dan Bliss

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The New York Times
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“Even if the drones crash into them,” Soria recalls thinking, “they won't break.”She built the soft playground for the drones to safely test a new form of autonomous control: programming drones to adjust their trajectory based on how they expect their neighbors to move—rather than relying on an omniscient computer to direct them. “They can foresee a future slowdown of their neighbors and reduce the negative effect of this on the flight in real time.”Based on the computer simulation and the fake-forest demonstration, Soria’s team showed that their drones zipped through the obstacles 57 percent faster than state-of-the-art “reactive” controls that don’t involve prediction. But bee swarms navigate unexpected obstacles better than drone swarms, and, Soria says, “biologists say that there's no central computer.” No one bird or fish or bee directs movement for the rest. But it’s not the norm, she says, because predictive control relies on a flood of real-time calculations that can max out whatever computational power fits on small drones, which weigh 10 times less than a smartphone.Predictive control is all about finding the optimal answer to a problem with a ton of variables—like inter-drone distance and speed—that should all hover near desired values. That makes Soria's computationally expensive approach worth it.Soria’s team tested the new approach against a state-of-the-art reactive model on a simulation with five drones and eight obstacles, and confirmed their hunch. (The small drones can’t carry the hardware needed to run predictive control computations onboard.)Soria placed the drones on the floor in a “start” region near the first tree-like obstacles. Simpler decentralized control systems may not find the best possible flight trajectory, but “they can run on very small onboard devices (such as mosquitoes, lady bugs or small drones) and scale much, much better with swarm size,” he writes.

As said here by Wired