So, more than twenty years ago, I'm sitting and reading the novel The Diamond Age, and I'm struck by a particular passage in which science fiction author Neal Stephenson wrote about a swarm of devices tasked with surveillance and security - the dog pod grid:
Atlantis/Shanghai occupied the loftiest ninety percent of New Chusan's land area - an inner plateau about a mile above sea level, where the air was cooler and cleaner. Parts of it were marked off with a lovely wrought-iron fence, but the real border was defended by something called the dog pod grid - a swarm of quasi-independent aerostats...
These pods were programmed to hang in space in a hexagonal grid pattern about ten centimeters apart...
(Read more about Stephenson's dog pod grid)
And now I'm sitting at my computer and watching this video, in which the firm Bitcraze has come up with a way to program this swarm of 27 gram drones to fly as a coordinated unit:
(Bitcraze Crazyflie micro drone swarm video)
Their ‘Crazyflie’ tech has now caught the eyes of Nasa, as well as Microsoft and Ericsson. But getting the miniscule flying machines up to scratch has been a long process, one of their founders told The Local.
“We’ve been working on them since 2009 and have evolved them in iterations. In the beginning it was fairly simple, but the system has progressed into a more mature and autonomous drone over time,” Bitcraze co-founder Tobias Antonsson said.
While Antonsson didn’t want to go into too much detail about what Nasa are testing the drones for, he did say that their ability to fly in swarms was an attractive prospect for the space agency.
“All I can say is that they are looking at swarm technology. How to solve a task faster with a swarm as opposed to a single drone. As the Crazyflie platform is small, light and safe, it’s a great tool to study these kind of things,” he explained.
I really think I've seen this idea before, and now it exists in real life.