Collective gradient perception with a flying robot swarm

Tugay Alperen Karagüzel*, Ali Emre Turgut, A. E. Eiben, Eliseo Ferrante

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


In this paper, we study the problem of collective and emergent sensing with a flying robot swarm in which social interactions among individuals lead to following the gradient of a scalar field in the environment without the need of any gradient sensing capability. We proposed two methods—desired distance modulation and speed modulation—with and without alignment control. In the former, individuals modulate their desired distance to their neighbors and in the latter, they modulate their speed depending on the social interactions with their neighbors and measurements from the environment. Methods are systematically tested using two metrics with different scalar field models, swarm sizes and swarm densities. Experiments are conducted using: (1) a kinematic simulator, (2) a physics-based simulator, and (3) real nano-drone swarm. Results show that using the proposed methods, a swarm—composed of individuals lacking gradient sensing ability—is able to follow the gradient in a scalar field successfully. Results show that when individuals modulate their desired distances, alignment control is not needed but it still increases the performance. However, when individuals modulate their speed, alignment control is needed for collective motion. Real nano-drone experiments reveal that the proposed methods are applicable in real-life scenarios.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)117-146
Number of pages30
JournalSwarm Intelligence
Issue number1-2
Early online date26 Oct 2022
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022, The Author(s).


  • Collective motion
  • Collective sensing
  • Flocking
  • UAV swarm


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