Self-Assembling Robot Swarm
The Distributed Flight Array is a robotic flying platform consisting of multiple autonomous single propeller vehicles that are able to drive, dock with their peers, and then fly in a coordinated fashion.
(Distributed Flight Array video)
The individual vehicles of the Distributed Flight Array have fixed propellers that can lift them into the air, but the resulting flight is erratic and uncontrolled. Joined together, however, these relatively simple modules evolve into a sophisticated multi-propeller system capable of coordinated flight.
The task of keeping the array in level flight is distributed across the network of vehicles. Vehicles exchange information and combine this information with their own sensor measurements to determine how much thrust is needed for the array to take-off and maintain level flight. If the array’s leveled flight is disturbed, each vehicle individually determines the amount of thrust required to correct for the disturbance based on its position in the array and the array’s motion.
Fans of Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age might be thinking of the dog pod grid, a defensive array of aerostats.
An early science-fictional reference to the idea of a self-assembling robot can be found in The Witches of Karres, a 1966 novel by James Schmitz.
The Sheem Robots were modeled after living animals of various worlds, and the Spider is considered to have been the most perfect of them all. This is the last specimen still in existence. You asked whether I had assembled it recently... Yes, I have. It's a most simple process...
The captain swung the gun up, pointed it at Yango's chest.
"What are you hiding?" he asked.
"Why, the activating mechanism," Yango frowned puzzledly. "I understood you wished to see it assembled. You see, the Sheen Robots assemble themselves when the signal to do it is registered by them."
From Distributed Flight Array via Geek.com.
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