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MIT researchers have developed an advanced multiagent trajectory-planner system that helps prevent drone collisions by generating collision-free trajectories even when communications between drones are delayed.

The algorithm incorporates a delay-check step, during which a drone waits a specific amount of time before committing to a new, optimized trajectory. When tested in simulations and flight experiments, the Robust MADER achieved a 100% success rate in generating collision-free trajectories, providing a safer approach to coordinating multiple drones in the same airspace, according to

MADER worked great in simulations, but it hadn’t been tested in hardware.

“So, we built a bunch of drones and started flying them. Drones need to talk to each other to share trajectories, but once you start flying, you realize pretty quickly that there are always communication delays that introduce some failures,” says Kota Kondo, an aeronautics and astronautics graduate student, according to

When Kondo and his collaborators tested the device, both in simulations and flight experiments with real drones, it achieved a 100 percent success rate at generating collision-free trajectories. While the drones’ travel time was a bit slower than it would be with some other approaches, no other baselines could guarantee safety.

“If you want to fly safer, you have to be careful, so it is reasonable that if you don’t want to collide with an obstacle, it will take you more time to get to your destination. If you collide with something, no matter how fast you go, it doesn’t really matter because you won’t reach your destination,” Kondo says..