Fyerfly Synchronization | Foto: Screenshot

Firefly synchronization of a robot swarm

In a recent video posted on Youtube, Agata Gniewek and Michał Barciś  (supervisor in the Karl Popper Kolleg “Networked Autonomous Aerial Vehicles”: Christian Bettstetter) present viewers with a firefly synchronization. We asked them to tell us a little bit more.

What is so special about firefly synchronization?

This is a mechanism based on a form of behaviour that can be found in nature, for example the synchronized flashing of fireflies. Another nice example is the synchronized firing of neurons in the brain. Thanks to very simple rules and its very good scalability, the algorithm can be applied even in very big networks.

How did you implement it?

The demo is implemented on Balboa robots from Pololu. Each of them is carrying a Raspberry Pi, which runs the Linux operating system. The communication between the robots is handled by ROS (Robot Operating System). The whole program is written in Python.

For what purpose could the firefly synchronization be important?

Firefly synchronization can be used to synchronize big networks, e.g. sensor networks. It is also very useful if multiple devices need to perform actions at precisely the same time. In our 3D reconstruction project we want to use multiple drones with cameras to obtain stereo images. To do that, they need to take pictures at the same moment, and this approach could be beneficial.

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