Swarming Intelligent Aquatic Surface Robots Ahoy!

A team of researchers from the Institute of Telecommunications at University Institute of Lisbon and from University of Lisbon in Portugal are the first to demonstrate a swarm of intelligent aquatic surface robots in a real-world environment.

(Swarming robotic boat)

...Swarms of robots have the potential to scale to hundreds or thousands of robots and cover large areas, making them ideal for tasks such as environmental monitoring, search and rescue, and maritime surveillance.

“Swarm robotics is a paradigm shift: we rely on many small, simple and inexpensive robots, instead of a single or a few large, complex and expensive robots”, said Dr. Anders Christensen, the principal investigator in the project. The team is focused on the challenge of how to control such large groups of robots autonomously. “Controlling a large-scale swarm of robots cannot be done centrally. Each robot must decide for itself how to carry out the mission, and coordinate with its neighbors”.

The researchers resorted to nature-inspired approaches for designing their robotic swarm. Instead of manually programming the robots to carry out a mission, evolutionary algorithms are used to synthesize the controller of each robot. Evolutionary algorithms mimic Darwinian evolution to automatically generate the artificial intelligence that controls each robot. “The robots basically learn how to cooperate with each other by themselves”. Each robot is controlled by an artificial neural network, an “artificial brain” that allows the robots to carry out the missions autonomously, without a human operator or a central control station.

The earliest reference to the swarm robotics idea that I know of was the nanomachine swarm from Stanislaw Lem's 1954 novel The Invincible:

"What is the nature of this cloud? What is your opinion?" he asked without any introductory remarks.

"It is made up of tiny metal particles. A remote-controlled emulsion, as it were, with uniform center," answered Jazon.

...I believe them to be very tiny pseudo insects that, if necessary, and for their common good, can unite to form a superordinate system (Read more about nanomachine swarm team)

Via Biomachines Lab.

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