A team of researchers based out of Hungary successfully flew a flock of quadcopter drones outside over a field, Nature reported today. Without any central leader, the drones were able to follow a leader or organize themselves into a formation.
Their work is based on natural flocks, within which individuals respond to each other in real time. The team said this is the first time a true flock like this has been flown outside. Previous efforts were only able to fly indoors or fly the drones at different heights to avoid collisions.
“It is the first outdoor demonstration of how biologically inspired rules can be used to create resilient yet dynamic flocks,” Princeton University collective animal behavior scientist Iain Couzin told Nature. ”[It suggests] we will be able to achieve large, coordinated robot flocks much sooner than many would have anticipated.”
Of course, the researchers chose to fly the 10 drones in a foggy field at night, leading to a very eery effect. Skip to the 2 minute mark in the video to see the drones in action.