Autonomous swarm testbed with multiple quadcopters

Ruaridh Clark, Giuliano Punzo, Gordon Dobie, Rahul Summan, Charles Norman MacLeod, Gareth Pierce, Malcolm Macdonald

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A testbed has been developed to validate and trial swarm engineering concepts. The vehicles used in this testbed are commercially available Parrot AR.Drone quadcopters that are controlled through a computer interface connected over a 65Mbps, IEEE 802.11n (Wi-Fi), network. The testbed architecture is presented with the implementation of a distributed controller, for each vehicle, discussed. The controller relies on a tracking system to provide precise information on the position and orientation of the aerial vehicles within the enclosure. This enables the autonomous and distributed elements of the control scheme to be retained, whilst alleviating the drones of the control algorithm's computational load. The testbed is used to control 3 drones effectively, where the control, communication and tracking systems are scalable to at least 12 drones. The paper also introduces the application of swarm engineering in remote visual inspection, with multiple airborne platforms visually inspecting a target by completing coverage bands before transitioning to another height. A kinematic field enables the drones to follow this path autonomously with the field being asymmetrically modified as a result of drone interactions. This modification of the field for a single drone is shown to prevent vehicle collisions by enabling queuing behind the leader. Using a swarm of 3 quadcopters, the coverage time for a target can be reduced by around 60% when compared with a solitary drone. Finally the three-dimensional model of a target that is generated from drone footage is presented; this surface-meshed model is constructed in post-processing, through photogrammetric analysis of the collected images.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2014
Event1st World Congress on Unmanned Systems Enginenering, 2014-WCUSEng - Oxford, United Kingdom
Duration: 30 Jul 20141 Aug 2014


Conference1st World Congress on Unmanned Systems Enginenering, 2014-WCUSEng
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • autonomous
  • inspection
  • quadcopter
  • swarm
  • testbed


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