The swarming nature of insects and birds is inspiring researchers to implement it in robotics to create swarm robots that can work coordinatively to accomplish complex tasks.
Swarming is a collective behavior exhibited mostly by insects and birds when they aggregate together to accomplish tasks like migrating. Robots are already disrupting many industries, but there are certain tasks that can be enhanced further with the help of multiple robots working together. Take for instance the task of exploring a mine. For a single robot to explore a huge mine can be time-consuming. But if multiple robots explore a mine, it can be done quickly. Hence, inspired by the swarming nature of birds and insects, a new field of robotics is emerging that dedicates to making a multi-robot system that can implement the swarming nature in robots. These swarm robots can interact with their neighboring robots and environment based on a simple set of rules. The behavior of swarm robots for problem-solving by interacting and coordinating with neighboring robots is called swarm intelligence. With the help of swarm intelligence, swarm robots can easily determine and investigate environmental parameters like sources of chemical spills, gas spills, and other toxic pollutions. And swarm robots can further communicate environmental information with neighbor swarm robots to assess the environment.
What are the Properties of Swarm Robots?
Swarm robots have fault-tolerant, scalable, and flexible properties. Swarm robotics is a multi-robot system, hence the failure of a single robot will certainly affect the entire system to some extent but will not cause the failure of the entire system. Further, the use of swarm robotics would also increase the scalability of the systems like the introduction or elimination of a single robot will not cause a drastic change in the functioning of other robots. The nature of swarm robots is to dynamically allocate themselves to different tasks and communicate with neighbors on the completion of their tasks. Hence, swarm robotics enables flexibility because of these distributed and self-organized nature of the swarm.
What Swarm Robots are Capable of?
Swarm robots can be helpful in achieving foraging tasks. Take for instance the collective exploration for toxic waste cleanup. Toxic waste cleanup requires exposure to chemicals and other hazardous wastes. Cleaning toxic waste can be dangerous for humans and a time-consuming task for a single robot. The coordinative nature of swarm robots can explore the toxic waste site without the need for human intervention. Swarm robots can easily communicate with neighboring robots and efficiently complete the toxic waste clean up.
Swarm robots can be used to achieve tasks in an environment where no communication is available to control normal robots. There is no need for any human communication for swarm robots to complete a process as they self-allocate themselves with available tasks. For instance, in a post-earthquake scenario, the landscape of the environment changes rapidly. Swarm robots can quickly communicate with each other and adapt to the changing environment to efficiently complete tasks like searching and rescuing victims.
Swarm robotics is a new and developing field of study. Although many ideas have been proposed on swarm robot use cases, there has not been any practical use case yet. Besides, algorithms for providing control over swarm robots and the hardware components should need to be developed further for realizing swarm robotics systems. With further advancements in hardware systems and the general field of swarm robotics, swarm robots will surely see real-world adoption to achieve complex automated tasks.