Swarm robotics is inspired by the social insect metaphor, and emphasises aspects such as decentralisation of control, limited communication abilities among robots, use of local information, emergence of global behaviour, and robustness. Most current studies in swarm robotic systems have focused on robotic swarms in which individuals are physically and behaviourally undifferentiated.
The Swarmanoid project proposes a highly innovative way to build robots that can successfully and adaptively act in human made environments. The Swarmanoid project will be the first to study how to design, realise and control a heterogeneous swarm robotic system capable of operating in a fully 3-dimensional environment.
The main scientific objective of the proposed research is the design, implementation and control of a novel distributed robotic system comprising heterogeneous, dynamically connected small autonomous robots so as to form what we call a swarmanoid. The swarmanoid that we intend to build will be comprised of numerous (about 60) autonomous robots of three types: eye-bots, hand-bots, and foot-bots.
Eye-bots are specialised in sensing and analysing the environment from a high position to provide an overview that foot-bots or hand-bots cannot have. Eye-bots fly or are attached to the ceiling. Hand-bots are specialised in moving and acting in a space zone between the one covered by the foot-bots (the ground) and the one covered by the eye-bots (the ceiling). Hand-bots can climb vertical surfaces of walls or objects located in the environment. Foot-bots are specialised in moving on rough terrain and transporting either objects or other robots; they are based on the robotic platform developed within the European Swarm-bots project. The combination of these three types of autonomous agents form an heterogeneous robotic system that is capable of moving in a 3D space.
In addition to the construction of the robots, important scientific contributions will be in the development of distributed algorithms for the control of the swarmanoid and in the study and definition of distributed communication protocols that will make it possible to let the swarmanoid act in a distributed, robust, and scalable way.