Research led by Oregon State University demonstrates that a single individual can effectively oversee a “swarm” of more than 100 autonomous ground and aerial robots. This achievement, funded by the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s OFFSET program, has vast implications across various sectors, including firefighting, disaster response, and package delivery services. Julie A. Adams from OSU’s College of Engineering emphasizes the potential for scaled deployment of delivery drones, advocating for a centralized supervisory approach.

The study, published in Field Robotics, highlights the initial steps toward understanding the feasibility of such systems, offering promising insights into future applications. The four-year project involved deploying swarms of up to 250 autonomous vehicles in urban environments, integrating various swarm tactics and autonomy technologies. Adams, as co-principal investigator, led the development of system infrastructure and a virtual reality interface named I3.

This interface enables commanders to control the swarm effectively, akin to a quarterback in American football. Physiological sensors monitored commanders’ workload levels during multiday field exercises, demonstrating the system’s reliability and adaptability under challenging conditions. Despite occasional workload thresholds, commanders successfully completed missions, showcasing the system’s effectiveness in real-world scenarios.





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