A “splendor” is our term for a flock of self-organizing Spiri drones. A splendor is distinguished from other groups of drones in subtle but important ways. We will examine those distinctions, and then discuss applications for a Spiri splendor.
Choreography Vs Self-Organization
It is possible to choreograph drones using standard ground station software. From a computer on the ground, you can either run simultaneous pre-set scripts on a number of drones, or have them go from one position to another on cue. This has a limit — around five robots you encounter difficulty monitoring or controlling them.
Self-organization takes the ground station bottleneck out of the system. Instead of each checking in with a single machine, the robots check in with each other — specifically, with their nearest three neighbors. Their formation is not described only in terms of fixed coordinates, but primarily in terms of achieving a configuration relative to each other. To visualize how this works, think about a class of children holding hands. By walking backwards until all their arms are stretched out, they will form a circle. Each child is only coordinating with his or her immediate neighbors.
Information within a splendor is shared through a “rumor” system. When a splendor is collecting data, the same Spiri neighbors that coordinate on formation also compare notes and store each other’s data. Data from each Spiri propagates quickly to all of them.
Independence from Infrastructure
A splendor can operate without any ground control station, any Wi-Fi or radio contact except among the members of the splendor, and without any global navigational satellites. A splendor can take advantage of this kind of infrastructure when available, but does not depend on it.
Buzz on Spiri
The foundational software that enables flocking on Spiri is Buzz. We connect it with other Spiri systems, including the navigational system, using ROS (robot operating system). Our communications systems, powerful onboard computer, fully autonomous flying, and safety features all contribute to making this work on Spiri.
Applications for Splendors
A splendor can be part of a response to a natural disaster where communications infrastructure has been disabled. The splendor can reestablish cellular coverage by carrying antennas into position. As each Spiri runs low on battery, it returns to the staging area, and the splendor automatically adjusts its formation. There are similar applications in natural resource management, environmental monitoring, and city management.