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Swarm robotics have an expanding variety of uses, ranging from industrial to military and defense purposes. Back in 2015, the University of Lincoln unveiled a pheromone system called Communication System via Pheromone. Inspired by insects, the system emits an artificial trail like a light. Once a robot picks up the trail, it would follow it, creating a swarm with others.

The U.K. is the leader in European swarm robotics, for the main reason that its military has identified swarm robotics as a priority, according to roboticsbusinessreview.com. Shortly after the U.K. introduced a fund valued at almost $1 billion to develop and acquire “next-generation defence technologies,” including “dragonfly drones,” its Ministry of Defense unveiled a competition to develop technology around unmanned air system (UAS) swarms.

A team of researchers in Rome and the Netherlands is working on the Swarm Robotics for Agricultural Applications (SAGA) project which is intended to develop vision processing, radio communication systems, and protocols for multiple unmanned aerial vehicles.

This past summer, researchers in Belgium published a paper on “Autonomous Task Sequencing in a Robot Swarm.” It showed how wheeled robots could work together in a “chain gang.”

In the Netherlands, the DelFly drone from the Delft University of Technology could help with disaster recovery, monitoring inventory in warehouses, and even replace endangered bees for pollination. A team in Austria is also working on drones to help honeybees, while the possibility of tiny surveillance drones has raised privacy concerns.

Two universities in Lisbon, Portugal, jointly developed 3D-printed “aquatic surface robots” that work in a swarm. These robots, which are envisioned to be deployed in the hundreds or thousands can be used for search and rescue, maritime surveillance and more. They operate autonomously by being connected to an “artificial brain”. In addition, the CPSwarm (Cyber Physical Swarm) European project includes drones, vehicles, and other cyber-physical systems as part of smart cities research.

Of course, the U.S. and China have their own drone swarm projects in the air and in the water, many of which are for entertainment or military purposes. Russia has claimed that a January attack on a base in Syria was conducted by a U.S.-commanded aerial drone swarm. This is leading to work on swarm countermeasures, as well as debates about the ethics around swarm use.

The global “swarm intelligence” market was worth $10.5 million last year and will experience a compound annual growth rate of 37.49% between then and 2028, mostly driven by defense, according to Research and Markets. European swarm robotics has received significant support because EU policymakers have prioritized it as an important robotics field to invest in.