If you fly drones for fun—or perhaps even for work—you know that piloting them can sometimes be a difficult tasks. Imagine, however, trying to control four drones simultaneously. While also “challenging,” researchers at the Skolkovo Institute of Science and Technology in Russia have come up with a new approach for commanding such a swarm using only arm movements.
SwarmTouch takes the form of a wrist and finger-mounted device, with an array of eight cameras tracking its position. When the operator moves their arm, the drones react to the hand motion and the other flying robots in the group, as if there was a mechanical system linking each one together.
Feedback is provided by an Arduino Uno connected to the control station via an XBee radio, which tells the operator whether the swarm is expanding or contracting using vibration motors on a wearer’s fingertips. The setup is on display in the video below and its research paper can be found here.
We propose a novel interaction strategy for a human-swarm communication when a human operator guides a formation of quadrotors with impedance control and receives vibrotactile feedback. The presented approach takes into account the human hand velocity and changes the formation shape and dynamics accordingly using impedance interlinks simulated between quadrotors, which helps to achieve a life-like swarm behavior. Experimental results with Crazyflie 2.0 quadrotor platform validate the proposed control algorithm. The tactile patterns representing dynamics of the swarm (extension or contraction) are proposed. The user feels the state of the swarm at his fingertips and receives valuable information to improve the controllability of the complex life-like formation. The user study revealed the patterns with high recognition rates. Subjects stated that tactile sensation improves the ability to guide the drone formation and makes the human-swarm communication much more interactive. The proposed technology can potentially have a strong impact on the human- swarm interaction, providing a new level of intuitiveness and immersion into the swarm navigation.