The Bristol Robotics Labs has been showing some of its latest research to industry. Alongside software for driverless cars, researchers in its FARSCOPE doctoral programme have been working on ways to use swarms of robots and even flying robotic snakes.

One project has managed to create a swarm of robots with 2TFLOPS of processing power. Each of the 16 mini robots has a 120GFLOP graphics processor and eight core ARM processors on board and can move around, communicating with each other via LED lights. The different lights are identified by a camera on each robot. This allows the robot to move around and interact with its environment and other robots in the swarm.

The processing power is used for a range of things, says researcher Simon Jones (above, with one of the swarm units). Now, each member of the swarm can hold the entire computing model locally, rather than having to link back to a central computer. This allows the model to be modified and to evolve as the robots interact.

Having this much processing power can also be used for AI and machine learning through the camera. One of the long term aims of the project is to develop ways that a robot could be inserted into a swarm of living animals or insects so that it could work out the models of interaction that are being used.

Flying robotic snakes

Enrico Werner is aiming to build a robotic snake that ‘flies’ like some real snakes do. These fall from trees and undulate to travel long distances in the air, and Werner is looking to build a system that moves in a similar way. The project will test out different designs in a wind tunnel over the next three years.

There are also more directly practical projects on display. The Riveras team for example, is looking at robust integrated verification of autonomous systems. Led by Prof Kerstin Eder of the University of Bristol, the team of researchers are developing techniques to demonstrate that the software being developed for driverless cars can be trusted.

Companies can use the FARSCOPE doctoral students to research problems that might help them, and companies can also make use of the RIF programme to use researchers to work on problems that may have a robotics solution

More of Bristol Robotics Lab’s work is highlighted in this month’s Bristol magazine at