Fleets of unmanned autonomous-marine vehicles, now in the prototype stage, will one day perform tactics too dangerous or tedious for humans.
Fuzzy fleets for marine research
Arranged in geometric formation similar to schools of fish, such fleets could be dispatched to sweep for mines, gather data, or conduct surveillance. They will communicate with each other via acoustic modems, radio waves, and sensors to coordinate tasks and follow a lead vehicle. The autonomous vehicles will be able to respond to changes in positions and can withstand the rigors of extreme environments.
Research and testing on such multiple autonomous vehicles are underway by University of Idaho engineering faculty with help from the Office of Naval Research. UI researchers have created a "leader-follower-formation-control algorithm." Using it, UI engineers can design vehicles to perform autonomous surface tasks, underwater navigation, communication and even aerial tactics.
If any of the vehicles becomes incapacitated or cannot communicate, the others will adjust, reconfigure their formation. and complete the mission. Or, a follower vehicle may substitute for the leader. The algorithm may be applied to 1D, 2D, and 3D formations. Because only the leader needs to broadcast its navigational position, there's no limit to the number of vehicles in the formation.
UI researchers are refining the mathematic "fuzzy logic," so that each machine will have its own logic and language. This refinement will be able each machine to signal and cooperate on major tasks with each other.