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Coming Soon: Oil Spill-Mapping Swarms of Flying Drones


A swarm of flying drones.

University at Buffalo researchers have devised a way to program a team of off-the-shelf, low-powered drones to map an oil spill.

Credit: Shutterstock.com

Researchers at the University at Buffalo have devised a way to program a team of off-the-shelf, low-powered drones to map an oil spill in a matter of minutes.

Following principles inspired partly by the behaviors of flocks of birds, the software enables the drones to quickly recognize whether they are flying over water, oil, or the edge of the spill. This information, instead of actual images or video, is shared with the other drones in the swarm.

As the drones sweep the area, they avoid flying over space that other drones have already covered. The drones' collision-avoidance system is based on the way parrots dodge each other, and drones will automatically turn to the right when they sense an oncoming member of the swarm.

Within nine minutes, a five-drone team was able to map an oil spill nearly one kilometer wide.

From UB News Center
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