AI News, BOOK REVIEW: A better way to control a swarm of drones

A better way to control a swarm of drones

Most people have seen drone swarms in action—they have been used for colorful entertainment purposes at such events as the Super Bowl and the Olympics.

The researchers with this new effort note that such drones are programmed in advance, and are therefore limited in ways they can be deployed.

They note that pre-programming makes it almost impossible for drones to overcome unexpected problems such as wind gusts or temporary loss of communications.

They suggest a better approach is to make the drones as autonomous as possible so they can determine what to do when unexpected events occur.

Each of the drones maintains its position in the swarm by keeping in constant communication with the others, monitoring where it is in relationship to others, and how fast everyone is moving.

A better way to control a swarm of drones

Most people have seen drone swarms in action—they have been used for colorful entertainment purposes at such events as the Super Bowl and the Olympics.

The researchers with this new effort note that such drones are programmed in advance, and are therefore limited in ways they can be deployed.

They note that pre-programming makes it almost impossible for drones to overcome unexpected problems such as wind gusts or temporary loss of communications.

They suggest a better approach is to make the drones as autonomous as possible so they can determine what to do when unexpected events occur.

Each of the drones maintains its position in the swarm by keeping in constant communication with the others, monitoring where it is in relationship to others, and how fast everyone is moving.

Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

In July 2015, some of the world’s top artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics researchers released an open letter calling for “a ban on offensive autonomous weapons beyond meaningful human control” (Future of Life Institute 2016 Future of Life Institute.

While military research on autonomous and distributed collaborative systems continues unabated, there is debate within the US armed services about what level of human control is appropriate (Magnuson 2016 Magnuson, S.

For example, the term “unmanned aircraft system” or UAS, often used by the Federal Aviation Administration, encompasses both human-controlled drones and fully autonomous swarms because it focuses on whether the systems in question are manned, not whether they have the capacity to be fully independent, autonomous devices.

(One of the most common uses of UASs in both military and civilian capacities is to simply provide surveillance and reconnaissance.) In contrast, the term used by the United Nations in many of its current studies, lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS), excludes human-piloted drones but includes “guns” that can be operated without human intervention, like the US Navy’s Phalanx and Israel’s Iron Dome (Chansoria 2015 Chansoria, M.

This may be an important oversight, because some scholars are concerned about the impact autonomous systems could have on international human rights through their ability to deploy surveillance capabilities that undermine privacy (Roff 2015 Roff, H.

Swarm behaviour

Swarm behaviour, or swarming, is a collective behaviour exhibited by entities, particularly animals, of similar size which aggregate together, perhaps milling about the same spot or perhaps moving en masse or migrating in some direction.

The term flocking or murmuration can refer specifically to swarm behaviour in birds, herding to refer to swarm behaviour in tetrapods, and shoaling or schooling to refer to swarm behaviour in fish.

By extension, the term “swarm” is applied also to inanimate entities which exhibit parallel behaviours, as in a robot swarm, an earthquake swarm, or a swarm of stars.

Swarm behaviour is also studied by active matter physicists as a phenomenon which is not in thermodynamic equilibrium, and as such requires the development of tools beyond those available from the statistical physics of systems in thermodynamic equilibrium.

In the outermost 'zone of attraction', which extends as far away from the focal animal as it is able to sense, the focal animal will seek to move towards a neighbour.

Fish rely on both vision and on hydrodynamic perceptions relayed through their lateral lines, while Antarctic krill rely both on vision and hydrodynamic signals relayed through antennae.

However recent studies of starling flocks have shown that each bird modifies its position, relative to the six or seven animals directly surrounding it, no matter how close or how far away those animals are.[4]

Another recent study, based on an analysis of high-speed camera footage of flocks above Rome and assuming minimal behavioural rules, has convincingly simulated a number of aspects of flock behaviour.[5][6][7][8]

In order to gain insight into why animals evolve swarming behaviours, scientists have turned to evolutionary models that simulate populations of evolving animals.

The concept of emergence—that the properties and functions found at a hierarchical level are not present and are irrelevant at the lower levels–is often a basic principle behind self-organizing systems.[18]

Instead, each ant reacts to stimuli in the form of chemical scents from larvae, other ants, intruders, food and buildup of waste, and leaves behind a chemical trail, which, in turn, provides a stimulus to other ants.

Despite the lack of centralized decision making, ant colonies exhibit complex behaviours and have even been able to demonstrate the ability to solve geometric problems.

The agents follow very simple rules, and although there is no centralized control structure dictating how individual agents should behave, local, and to a certain degree random, interactions between such agents lead to the emergence of intelligent global behaviour, unknown to the individual agents.

There is also a scientific stream attempting to model the swarm systems themselves and understand their underlying mechanisms, and an engineering stream focused on applying the insights developed by the scientific stream to solve practical problems in other areas.[22]

Ant colony optimization is a widely used algorithm which was inspired by the behaviours of ants, and has been effective solving discrete optimization problems related to swarming.[29]

Species that have multiple queens may have a queen leaving the nest along with some workers to found a colony at a new site, a process akin to swarming in honeybees.[32][33]

An SPP swarm is modelled by a collection of particles that move with a constant speed and respond to random perturbations by adopting at each time increment the average direction of motion of the other particles in their local neighbourhood.[36]

At each time iteration, the particle swarm optimiser accelerates each particle toward its optimum locations according to simple mathematical rules.

Yet put together, the cumulative effect of such behaviours can solve highly complex problems, such as locating the shortest route in a network of possible paths to a food source.

Individual ants do not exhibit complex behaviours, yet a colony of ants collectively achieves complex tasks such as constructing nests, taking care of their young, building bridges and foraging for food.

More ants then follow the stronger trail, so more ants arrive at the high quality food source, and a positive feedback cycle ensures, resulting in a collective decision for the best food source.

The successful techniques used by ant colonies have been studied in computer science and robotics to produce distributed and fault-tolerant systems for solving problems.

This area of biomimetics has led to studies of ant locomotion, search engines that make use of 'foraging trails', fault-tolerant storage and networking algorithms.[64]

In this new location, the bees cluster about the queen and send 20 -50 scout bees out to find a suitable new nest locations.The scout bees are the most experienced foragers in the cluster.

A swarm may fly for a kilometre or more to the scouted out location, though some species may establish new colonies within as little as 500 meters from the natal nest, such as Apis dorsata.[65]

This collective decision making process is remarkably successful in identifying the most suitable new nest site and keeping the swarm intact.

A good nest site has to be large enough to accommodate the swarm (about 15 litres in volume), has to be well protected from the elements, receive a certain amount of warmth from the sun, be some height above the ground, have a small entrance and resist the infestation of ants - hence why trees are often selected.[66][67][68][69][70]

The study conducted by José Halloy and colleagues at the Free University of Brussels and other European institutions created a set of tiny robots that appear to the roaches as other roaches and can thus alter the roaches' perception of critical mass.

They form bands as nymphs and swarms as adults—both of which can travel great distances, rapidly stripping fields and greatly damaging crops.

Swarming in locusts has been found to be associated with increased levels of serotonin which causes the locust to change colour, eat much more, become mutually attracted, and breed much more easily.

Researchers propose that swarming behaviour is a response to overcrowding and studies have shown that increased tactile stimulation of the hind legs or, in some species, simply encountering other individuals causes an increase in levels of serotonin.

The upwash assists each bird in supporting its own weight in flight, in the same way a glider can climb or maintain height indefinitely in rising air.

The birds flying at the tips and at the front are rotated in a timely cyclical fashion to spread flight fatigue equally among the flock members.

During migration the flocks were a mile (1.6 km) wide and 300 miles (500 km) long, taking several days to pass and containing up to a billion birds.

The term 'shoal' can be used to describe any group of fish, including mixed-species groups, while 'school' is used for more closely knit groups of the same species swimming in a highly synchronised and polarised manner.

Fish derive many benefits from shoaling behaviour including defence against predators (through better predator detection and by diluting the chance of capture), enhanced foraging success, and higher success in finding a mate.[91]

Generally they prefer larger shoals, shoalmates of their own species, shoalmates similar in size and appearance to themselves, healthy fish, and kin (when recognised).

One puzzling aspect of shoal selection is how a fish can choose to join a shoal of animals similar to themselves, given that it cannot know its own appearance.

In the case of foraging behaviour, captive shoals of golden shiner (a kind of minnow) are led by a small number of experienced individuals who knew when and where food was available.[95]

This great migration, called the sardine run, creates spectacular feeding frenzies along the coastline as marine predators, such as dolphins, sharks and gannets attack the schools.

Most krill, small shrimp-like crustaceans, form large swarms, sometimes reaching densities of 10,000–60,000 individual animals per cubic metre.[98][99][100]

One swarm was observed to cover an area of 450 square kilometers (175 square miles) of ocean, to a depth of 200 meters (650 feet) and was estimated to contain over 2 million tons of krill.[102]

By moving vertically through the ocean on a 12-hour cycle, the swarms play a major part in mixing deeper, nutrient-rich water with nutrient-poor water at the surface.[102]

Some species form surface swarms during the day for feeding and reproductive purposes even though such behaviour is dangerous because it makes them extremely vulnerable to predators.[105]

The algorithm is based on three main factors: ' (i) movement induced by the presence of other individuals (ii) foraging activity, and (iii) random diffusion.'[107]

Some copepods have extremely fast escape responses when a predator is sensed and can jump with high speed over a few millimetres (see animated image below).

Because of their smaller size and relatively faster growth rates, however, and because they are more evenly distributed throughout more of the world's oceans, copepods almost certainly contribute far more to the secondary productivity of the world's oceans, and to the global ocean carbon sink than krill, and perhaps more than all other groups of organisms together.

The surface layers of the oceans are currently believed to be the world's largest carbon sink, absorbing about 2 billion tons of carbon a year, the equivalent to perhaps a third of human carbon emissions, thus reducing their impact.

While he was referring to more broad observations of plant morphology, and was focused on both root and shoot behavior, recent research has supported this claim.

Roots, in particular, display observable swarm behavior, growing in patterns that exceed the statistical threshold for random probability, and indicate the presence of communication between individual root apexes.

The transition zone of a root tip is largely responsible for monitoring for the presence of soil-borne hormones, signaling responsive growth patterns as appropriate.

These forces act to inform any number of growing 'main' roots, which exhibit their own independent releases of inhibitory chemicals to establish appropriate spacing, thereby contributing to a swarm behavior pattern.

Horizontal growth of roots, whether in response to high mineral content in soil or due to stolon growth, produces branched growth that establish to also form their own, independent root swarms.[115]

Myxobacteria swarm together in 'wolf packs', actively moving using a process known as bacterial gliding and keeping together with the help of intercellular molecular signals.[52][116]

Understanding how humans interact in crowds is important if crowd management is to effectively avoid casualties at football grounds, music concerts and subway stations.[122]

The basic idea is that people will buy more of products that are seen to be popular, and several feedback mechanisms to get product popularity information to consumers are mentioned, including smart card technology and the use of Radio Frequency Identification Tag technology.

Partially inspired by colonies of insects such as ants and bees, researchers are modelling the behaviour of swarms of thousands of tiny robots which together perform a useful task, such as finding something hidden, cleaning, or spying.

The whole set of robots can be considered as one single distributed system, in the same way an ant colony can be considered a superorganism, exhibiting swarm intelligence.

Historically military forces used principles of swarming without really examining them explicitly, but now active research consciously examines military doctrines that draw ideas from swarming.

Office of Naval Research released a video showing tests of a swarm of small autonomous drone attack boats that can steer and take coordinated offensive action as a group.[142]

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