An algorithm was developed that enables a team of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to communicate and work toward a common goal. The tool could be used to improve security or capture images simultaneously over a large area.

The researchers trialed a “capture the flag” game scenario, whereby a team of defender drones worked together within a defined area to intercept an intruder drone and prevent it from reaching a specific place. To give the game more authenticity, and to check if their algorithms would work under unpredictable conditions, the intruder drone was remote-piloted by a researcher.

Rather than using a central base station with which the drones would communicate, the system used custom-built UAVs and incorporated a lightweight, low-power computing and WiFi module on each drone, enabling them to talk to each other during flight. A distributed architecture was designed in which the drones coordinate based on local information and peer-to-peer communications.

The algorithm aims to achieve an optimal level of peer-to-peer messaging and rapid reaction times without heavy computation. This allows the algorithm to work effectively in real time while the drones are chasing an intruder. Each drone makes its own plan based on a forecast of optimistic views of its teammates’ actions and pessimistic views of the opponents’ actions. Since these forecasts may be inaccurate, each drone executes only a portion of its plan, then reassesses the situation before re-planning.

The algorithm works in both indoor and outdoor arenas under different attack scenarios.

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