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Search and rescue crews are already using drones to locate missing hikers. Farmers are flying them over fields to survey crops. And delivery companies will soon use drones to drop packages at your doorstep.

With so many applications for the technology, an Iowa State University researcher says the next step is to expand capacity by deploying fleets of drones. But making that happen is not as simple as launching multiple aircraft at once. Borzoo Bonakdarpour, an assistant professor of computer science, says unlike piloting a single drone by remote control, operating a fleet requires an automated system to coordinate the task, but allows drones to independently respond to weather, a crash or unexpected events.

 

"The operating system must be reliable and secure. The drones need to talk to one another without a central command telling each unit where to go and what to do when conditions change," Bonakdarpour said. "We also want to optimize the time and energy to complete the task, because drone batteries only last around 15 or 20 minutes."

 

To tackle this problem, Bonakdarpour and his colleagues developed a mathematical model to calculate the cost - time and energy - to complete a task based on the number of drones and recharging stations available. The model considers the energy required for each drone to complete its portion of the task and fly to a charging station as needed.

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Category: Science