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When there is a gas leak in a large building or at an industrial site, human firefighters need to go in with gas sensing instruments. Finding the gas leak may take considerable time, while they are risking their lives.
Autonomous gas source localization is a complex task. For one, artificial gas sensors are currently less capable than animal noses in detecting small amounts of gas and staying sensitive to quick changes in gas concentration. Moreover, the environment in which the gas spreads can be complex. Consequently, much of the research in this area has focused on single robots that search for a gas source in rather small, obstacle-free environments in which the source is easier to find.
According to sciencedaily.com, researchers from TU Delft (the Netherlands), University of Barcelona, and Harvard University have now developed the first swarm of tiny — and hence very safe — drones that can autonomously detect and localize gas sources in cluttered indoor environments.
By means of bio-inspired navigation and search strategies, the researchers could solve the challenge of fitting AI in the tight computational and memory constraints of the tiny drones.
The development of such drone swarms is expected to allow finding gas leaks more efficiently and without the risk of human lives in real-world environments.
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