Excellence in drone swarming recognised by prestigious award
With autumn closing in it won’t be long before we’re being treated to one of nature’s wonders – the mass aerial stunts of swarms (or murmurations) of starlings. Such large-scale displays of coordinated but individual flight have been providing the inspiration for researchers at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Security, Reliability and Trust (SnT), who will now further their research into drone swarming with the support of a three-year grant from the US Navy Office of Naval Research.
“In nature species organised as swarms develop a collective intelligence, helping them to survive in hostile environments,” says Dr. Grégoire Danoy, expert in optimisation and mobile ad hoc networks in the Parallel Computing and Optimization Group (PCOG). “Similarly, groups of drone vehicles working collaboratively are more resilient, can cover a wider area and conduct longer missions than drones working individually.”
Enabling drones to make individual decisions while working efficiently as a group to solve complex problems, however, remains a major research challenge. When tracking or intercepting intruders, for example, how do you ensure that drone behaviour appears random but remains both efficient and deterministic? How do you achieve maximum area coverage while maintaining inter-drone communication in changing environments? And how do you make the most of the differing capabilities of drones working on land, in the air and on the water?
The team has already made significant progress in three distinct areas of swarm mobility – chaos theory, clustering techniques and nature-inspired approaches. The US Navy funded project will allow them to combine these methods to optimise the behaviour of autonomous vehicles in a completely distributed way.
Dr. Grégoire Danoy and Prof. Pascal Bouvry
Prof. Pascal Bouvry, who leads SnT’s work in parallel computing and optimisation techniques, is excited about this opportunity to develop a new generation of mobility models for autonomous drone swarms. “This award provides recognition of what we have been doing in terms of research on drone swarming, and also recognises the huge potential to take this approach further in a three-year project.”