Spies in the sky

Costa del Sol News - - FRONT PAGE -

It was re­ported some time ago that some ayun­tamien­tos (town halls) were us­ing swarms of drones to as­cer­tain if some houses had built swim­ming pools, ex­ten­sions, garages and the like il­le­gally: i.e. with­out build­ing per­mis­sion. An eerie feel­ing, don’t you think? There are swarms of drones in the sky and they are spy­ing on us. And why in swarms, I won­dered. Why not the odd one here or there?

Well, it seems sci­en­tists are build­ing swarms of ro­bots that mimic the be­hav­iour of swarms in Na­ture. The feats of aer­o­batic co­or­di­na­tion by flocks of birds and the un­seen in­tel­li­gence that guides so­cial in­sects both em­anate from the same source.

The secret to both is ‘emer­gence’, the process by which a col­lec­tion of in­di­vid­u­als, each fol­low­ing a set of sim­ple rules, can per­form com­plex ‘in­tel­li­gent’ group be­hav­iour. Re­searchers now copy the be­hav­iour of an­i­mals, birds and in­sects that swarm and which are far more ef­fec­tive than in­di­vid­ual ma­chines.

The first gen­er­a­tion of drones was likely used for space ex­plo­ration, war­fare and ae­rial map­ping, but swarms of ro­bots may one day clean your home or even pa­trol your blood­stream.

So, how do they do it; swarm I mean? Strictly speak­ing, a flock just moves to­gether, whereas in a swarm the mem­bers com­mu­ni­cate us­ing chem­i­cal or other sig­nals: a process called stig­mergy.

How­ever, in the ro­bot world, flock­ing and swarm­ing are often used in­ter­change­ably to de­scribe groups of ma­chines that work with- hard­ware for ground and air use. Oh yes, I tell thee all! Drones of ro­bots can do far more than just check if you il­le­gally build a swim­ming pool in your gar­den. And here are some of the ways ro­bot swarms are plan­ning to be used: In search and res­cue, a swarm of small UAVs (un­screwed Ariel Ve­hi­cles) can cover a much larger area than crewed air­craft. They can au­to­mat­i­cally dis­trib­ute them­selves into the best search pat­terns and risk fly­ing in the worst weather. It is ex­pected that ‘ nanobots’ will in the near fu­ture help in the eter­nal fight against can­cer. Mi­cro­scopic nanobots may one day be in­jected into the blood­stream to tackle can­cer. These nanobots would sig­nal to each other where a tu­mour is lo­cated and de­liver pre­cise doses of chemo­ther­apy. (Wasn’t there a science-fic­tion film fea­tur­ing Raquel Welsh around 1968 about a crew in a sub­marine­type ma­chine that it and its crew were made so small it could be in­jected into the blood­stream of a hu­man be­ing; called ‘Fan­tas­tic Jour­ney’, if my me­mory serves me right.) Robotic drones could give us as­ter­oid pro­tec­tion. MADMEN or Mo­du­lar As­ter­oid De­flec­tion Mis­sion Ejec­tor Nodes are space probes that could be used to de­flect an Earth­bound as­ter­oid us­ing the com­bined thrust.

A fleet of UAVs can main­tain con­tin­ual watch over for­est ar­eas dur­ing pe­ri­ods of high risk. Tri­an­gu­la­tion us­ing sev­eral UAVs can quickly lo­cate the source of smoke, there­fore pre­vent­ing a fire from de­vel­op­ing be­fore it gets out of hand.

And let’s not for­get the chil­dren (big and small); swarm­ing toy ro­bots could build them­selves into more elab­o­rate and ca­pa­ble forms like NASA’s ANT5. Friends could meet to merge their col­lec­tions into even larger swarms.

It has been sug­gested by the ex­perts that a fleet of so­lar-pow­ered UAVs could one day re­place mo­bile phone masts. Able to deal with much greater band­widths, the net­work would con­tin­u­ally reconfigure it­self.

The first pro­to­type Ul­tra-swarm node used a minia­ture Li­nus com­puter with a Blue­tooth con­nec­tion. The tech­nol­ogy made way for the kind of map­ping and sur­vey­ing tasks, in­clud­ing en­vi­ron­men­tal mon­i­tor­ing.

Flocks of UAVs could give a con­tin­u­ous, de­tailed pic­ture of all ur­ban and in­dus­trial land­scapes. I have a friend who lives on an ur­ban­i­sa­tion where such drones have been used. There have been many and may I say very many ex­tra IBI charges, large fines and, in some cases, re­ports of a few prop­erty-own­ers hav­ing to dis­man­tle that which they built un­law­fully.

So, watch com­ing!!!!! out! The ro­bots are words007@gmail.com

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