The Ecole Polytechnic Federale de Lausanne in Switzerland is developing swarms of flying robots that could be deployed in disaster areas to create communication networks for rescuers. The Swarming Micro Air Vehicle Network (SMAVNET) project comprises of robust, lightweight robots and software that allows the devices to wirelessly communicate with each other.
The flying robots were built out of expanded polypropylene with a single motor at the rear and two elevons (control surfaces that enable steering). The robots are equipped with autopilot to control altitude, airspeed and turn rate. A micro-controller operates using three sensors — a gyroscope and two pressure sensors. The robots also have a GPS module to log flight journeys.
For the swarming, robots react to wireless communication with either neighbouring robots or rescuers, rather than relying on GPS or other positioning sensors that might be unreliable, impractical or expensive. Software algorithms that know where other nearby bots are can stop them from crashing into each other.
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