World record for self-flying drones in a single swarm

The cover of the scientific journal Science Robotics' July issue features the night flight of a swarm of drones that are driven by a strategy developed by scientists at ELTE University in Budapest and Professor of Artificial Intelligence Guszti Eiben from Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. The researchers use nature-based algorithms and evolutionary optimization methods.

07/20/2018 | 10:45 AM

Self-flying drones
There are millions of drones flying in the air worldwide, usually operated by a person with a remote control. The Hungarian research group has developed drones that are able to fly autonomously, communicate with each other, synchronize their flight, form large swarms, and collectively fly to their targets while avoiding obstacles and each other – just like birds. Professor of Network Systems Tamás Vicsek and his group were the first to create a self-organizing swarm of ten quadcopters in 2014. Eiben joined them at a later stage and helped to optimize drone behaviour using evolutionary calculation techniques.

World record established
Under the direction of Gábor Vásárhelyi of the Hungarian Robotic Lab, the drones' behaviour was optimized on a Hungarian supercomputer. They tested the resulting driver on a swarm of a thousand drones in computer simulations and subsequently on thirty real drones in a field. This is the world record for drones flying autonomously in a single swarm. Apart from the large number of self-steering drones, this system is unique because of the underlying models – these are new – and the systematic behaviour: the drones are able to avoid obstacles and each other with unprecedented speeds and exhibit a natural-looking flight pattern.

Optimized flocking of autonomous drones in confined environments: Gábor Vásárhelyi, Csaba Virágh, Gergö Somorjai, Tamás Nepusz, Agoston E. Eiben, Tamás Vicsek. Credit/fotograaf: Zsolt Bézsenyi.

Photo: Zsolt Bézsenyi.