Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Engineering GRASP lab are creating swarms of small quadrotor robots, described in their article "Towards a swarm of agile micro quadrotors" and a TED talk "Robots that fly ... and cooperate." On their own, the robots have high maneuverability, able to do flips and fly through narrow windows at any orientation. Their small size (about 8" in diameter) is largely responsible for such agility. Since small robots cannot perform large carrying tasks on their own, this project is also researching swarm techniques so that many of them may work together. They have succeeded in having them fly in formation and change formations. Additionally, the robots can autonomously explore and build up a map of its location, including features such as doors, furniture, and walls. It does not put it on a coordinate system.
The robots are controlled through a combination of on-board processing and communication with a base station. The base station computes high-level control and planning using Matlab, but the low-level control occurs on-board. The high-level control is determined by external motion capture to determine the position of the robots, and communicates at a rate of 100Hz. Local control occurs at 600Hz for fine control.
size: 21 cm diameter, 73g
power: 2-cell 400 mAh Li-Po battery provides for 11 min of hovering
processor: ARM Cortex-M3, 72MHz
communication: two Zigbee radio transceivers to communicate with the base station for commands.
locomotion: quadrotor system can roll, pitch, and yaw by powering different rotors at higher and lower speeds.
positioning sensors: 3-axis magnetometer, 3-axis accelerometer, 2-axis gyro, barometer
environment sensors: kinect and laser scanner