Chinese scientists have developed a new flight path planning system that can help miniature, fully autonomous drone swarms fly smartly through crowded forests, without collisions.
The planning system enabled 10 aerial robots to collectively maneuver unhindered through a cluttered bamboo forest and find the most efficient flight path, according to the study published Thursday in the journal Science Robotics.
Inspired by how flocks of birds can flexibly coordinate their collective flight paths, the researchers from Zhejiang University designed a trajectory planning method that processes data from onboard sensors and incorporates collision avoidance, flight efficiency, and swarm coordination to optimize swarm flying within a few milliseconds.
The fleet of 10 drones was spotted avoiding other drones in a drone traffic scenario, according to the study.
"In our system, each robot is equipped with a stereo camera, attitude sensor and embedded computer that uses image and attitude data for localization," said the research paper's first author Zhou Xin with Zhejiang University.
"The trajectory planning module will plan a trajectory immediately that will neither hit obstacles nor other robots in the next few seconds and the controller then controls the propellers to follow this safe trajectory," Zhou added.
The new system is expected to help rescuers in search and rescue operations in forests, animal and plant researchers, and even ordinary people who may receive packages delivered by aerial robots to their balconies in the coming years, the researchers said.