Bill Chappell
NPR.org
February 27, 2014

Can drones, the small unmanned aircraft that are at the forefront of fields from warfare to commercial delivery systems, fly without human intervention? A team of Hungarian researchers answers yes, having created 10 drones that self-organize as they move through the air.

The team based its creation on birds such as pigeons, which fly in tight bunches while making adjustments and decisions. They fitted quadcopters — drones with four rotors — with GPS, processors and radios that allow them to navigate in formation or while following a leader.

Like “gregarious animals” such as birds and fish, the flock of drones follows rules of collective motion, says Tamas Vicsek, a physicist who teaches at Budapest’s Eötvös Loránd University. “We came to the conclusion that one of the best ways to understand how animals move together is to build robots — flying robots.”

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