Watch a swarm of drones fly through a heavy forest – living in formation | Science

By Edd Gent

Weaving through dense forests is a challenge for even the most sophisticated drone. Trying to do it as part of a swim of size orders is more difficult. But researchers have now bypassed the code.

The approach builds on a single-drone navigation device, which quickly maps routes around obstacles as they come into view using just the drone’s camera and computer. The team, which was also behind the earlier strategy, made an adjustment for swarms by getting drones to broadcast their signals over a wireless network. That allowed the other drones to choose routes that would avoid crashes while creating.

The approach, published last month on arXiv ‘s introductory server, requires very little computing power and will work even if the wireless connection is spotty. In real-world experiments, a three-drone sword was able to move swiftly through a forest of random trees.

This approach should be easily scaled up, say the researchers, who have already made “swarms” of up to 10 virtual drones in computer simulations of full-fledged woods. The technology, they say, could offer great promise for search and rescue missions in disaster zones or the study of ecologically interesting habitats under forest canopies.