Be very afraid. I am.

Oregon State University has demonstrated that a swarm of over 100 autonomous ground and aerial robots can be supervised by one person without subjecting them to undue workload.

This research is a significant step towards efficiently and economically using swarms in various roles, including wildland firefighting, package delivery, and disaster response in urban environments. The results, published in Field Robotics, stem from the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s program known as OFFSET.

Researchers deployed swarms of up to 250 autonomous vehicles, including multi-rotor aerial drones and ground rovers, to gather information in “concrete canyon” urban surroundings where line-of-sight, satellite-based communication is impaired by buildings.

The information collected during their missions at military urban training sites has the potential to help keep U.S. troops and civilians safer. The study involved developing a virtual reality interface called I3 that allows the commander to control the swarm with high-level directions.

Credit: TechXplore & Oregon State University