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Unmanned Aircraft Clustered via Bluetooth

timothy posted more than 9 years ago | from the zip-around-the-room dept.

Wireless Networking 189

An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at the University of Essex are using Linux and tiny embedded computer modules to build fleets of unmanned aircraft that fly in flocking formations like birds, while performing parallel, distributed computing tasks using Bluetooth-connected Linux clustering software. The Gridswarm project includes model trainers that can fly 120mph, while a parallel Ultraswarm project uses co-axial helicopters. A prototype of the later is believed to the world's smallest flying web server. The aircraft will run Linux on embedded computing modules from Gumstix."

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firehorsey (867123) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551524)

pretty sweet - I can retire now!

Why not use Mac OS X? (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12551527)

Are these researchers DAFT? Why aren't they using the best tool for the job? OS X is faster, more stable and more secure than Linux. It is so much more powerful than Linux in every single way, these guys must be complete knobs.

Pamela Jones EXPOSED (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12551530)

Exclusive: Who Is 'PJ' Pamela Jones of Groklaw.Net?

Pamela Is A 61-Year-Old Jehovah's Witness Who Lives In A Shabby Genteel Garden Apartment In Hartsdale, New York

By: Maureen O'Gara
May 7, 2005 09:15 PM

A few weeks ago I went looking for the elusive harridan who supposedly writes the Groklaw blog about the SCO v IBM suit.

The now-famous opinion-shaping open source leader Pamela Jones, aka "PJ," doesn't give conventional face-to-face interviews. Never has, near as anyone knows. All communication is virtual. Only one person in the world has ever claimed to have met her - in the pressroom at LinuxWorld in Boston complete with a Pamela Jones badge - and described her as a fortyish reddish-blonde who giggled a lot.

[Photo: May 7, 2005 12:37 PM - 304 North Central Avenue, Hartsdale, New York. The last known address of Pamela Jones, as the superintendent of the building calls it, Ms. Pam Jones.]

Oh yeah? Wonder what cold crème she uses.

Pamela Jones is a 61-year-old Jehovah's Witness who lives in a shabby genteel garden apartment in desperate need of an interior decorator on a heavily trafficked commercial road at 304 North Central Avenue in Hartsdale, New York. Hartsdale is in Westchester and Westchester is IBM territory.

See, even though Groklaw treats cell phones like they were Kleenex and changes its unpublished numbers regularly, one number it left with a journalist led to this flat and - wouldn't you know it but - some calls from there had been placed to the courts in Utah and to the Canopy Group so obviously this just isn't any Pamela Jones.

Pamela has lived in apartment 1A for 10 years at least, according to the super, who says he's watched people move in, have children, and the children marry and move away.

Now, this isn't your usual anonymous New York apartment. It's practically a self-contained village where the super goes for the old ladies' groceries when there's snow on the ground and people know each other's business.

[Photo: May 7, 2005 12:41 PM - 304 North Central Avenue, Hartsdale, New York. The last known address of Pamela Jones.]

But the super didn't know much about Pamela except that she had a computer, worked at home (maybe sometimes) for a lawyer, was "paranoid" - his word - and "sensitive to smells."

He remembered how he was cleaning paintbrushes one day and she came running down the stairs screaming "Fire."

She was also missing and had been for weeks.

Nobody there knew where she was.

She had up and disappeared one day, and the super was worried about her. He said her son had dropped by and he didn't know where she was, and that some strange man that "nobody knew," as the super described him, had tried to get into her apartment while she was gone - the Medeco lock she had had installed on her door - something nobody else in the complex seemed to feel a need for - was more expensive than the door. But, as it happened, the super said, she had just sent in her rent in an envelope postmarked Connecticut.

Like an episode out of "Where in the World is Carmen San Diego," the trail led to 10 Bittersweet Trail in Norwalk, Connecticut, 24 miles away. Sure enough, parked in the driveway was Pamela's car, just as the super had described it, a dark gray '90s Japanese number with a bunch of Jehovah Witness pamphlets tossed on the backseat.

The woman at the house, Barbara Jones Sharnik, told a disjointed story. She didn't know Pamela, Pamela hated her, Pamela wasn't there, Pamela left her car there because it got bumped, Pamela left her car there because she left town, and so on.

Afterwards Barbara called the cops, and then the cops called the number we left with her and the cops said that she was Pamela's mother and that Pamela was on the run and had shacked up with her mother because she had gotten "threatening mail" weeks before and that she had just gotten spooked again because "people were getting hurt around [my] stories" and had lighted out for Canada.

[Photo: May 7, 2005 2:24 PM - 10 Bittersweet Trail in Norwalk, Connecticut. Mom's house, where PJ's car was last seen on this driveway.]

Odd, the subject of my stories - or any stories - never came up during our brief interview. I was just looking for Pamela.

That left Pamela's son, Nicolas Richards, who, as it happens, had been in the software business in Manhattan until - why, my goodness - things seem to have come a cropper right around the time Groklaw came into existence.

Nick and his ma were apparently involved together in Medabiliti Inc, an ISV, because one Pamela Jones with a Westchester phone number (914 761-7423) and a Medabiliti e-mail ( was down as the director of public affairs on a Medabiliti press release dated April 14, 2003.

Nick, as it happens, has written under his own byline on a Groklaw sister site, GrokDoc, giving advice on technical writing. Nick and his wife Andrea live in fancier digs than his ma on East 76th Street off First Avenue, a neighborhood where apartments go for a couple of million bucks.

Now, according to one of Pamela's neighbors and fellow Jehovah's Witness, being a Jehovah's Witness is pretty much a full-time job in and of itself. Witnesses also don't usually get involved in worldly affairs.

So, is this story-spooked 61-year-old Jehovah's Witness with religious tracts in her backseat also the 90-hour-a-week writer of the voluminous PJ diatribes or is she a victim of identity theft?


Cooooooool. (4, Funny)

mrseigen (518390) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551531)

I wonder if my municipality will take offense to flying sorties over to my neighbours' yard to steal beer out of his cooler.

Re:Cooooooool. (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12551563)

Can't wait for the first BT virus for this one. That's when you'll see the real sorties flying through your neighborhood.

Re:Cooooooool. (0)

sydsavage (453743) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551927)

Imagine a flying beowulf cluster of these.

(Actually, at least the earlier prototype used beowulf software.)

There's competition? (4, Funny)

GrouchoMarx (153170) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551551)

A prototype of the later is believed to the world's smallest flying web server.

There's competition for that title? Just how many flying web servers are there? (IIS boxes falling out of high office windows after being thrown do not count.)

Re:There's competition? (1)

orion88 (834423) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551627)

I had the same thought when I read that...


Re:There's competition? (3, Funny)

roseblood (631824) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551634)

You know, I wonder WHY does one NEED a flying webserver that's small? If you've got to dish out websites from something that flies why not park a high-altitude blimp up at, oh..say, 50,000 feet and beam down the internet from there? Or... why not park a box full of anetna, electronics, bateries, and solar cells into orbit and do the same from there?

If you need a cluster of machines to work in paralell for greater number-crunching power, why not by a big server rack and throw in a bunch of 1U sized machines?

I mean, it's cool for the "wow, check this out" factor....but...real life aplications? Massively Paralell UAVs of DOOM?

Re:There's competition? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12551951)

Quite simple. It's military technology. Few people run away from racks of 1U servers. It's also quite hard to shoot enemies from the upper regions of the atmosphere. Besides, solving swarming problems in 3D has some benefits for civil applications as well, like traffic control. I also think that they may just like to play with cool tech while solving hard problems.

Re:There's competition? (4, Informative)

zerbot (882848) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552114)

Yes, I see great applications in public safety. There are traffic speed sensors on the highways, and a sudden slowdown is often the first indicator of an accident. There are cameras but they don't cover end-to-end. Nest one of these every few miles and you can launch to investigate traffic slowdowns or confirmed accidents. Pipe the video to emergency response and they can dispatch exactly what resources are needed and paramedics can get a heads up on the kinds of injuries they are likely to be dealing with.

Call 911 and get an automatic dispatch of one to your location, arriving within 30 seconds in an urban location. Gives police and fire a heads up on what they will be facing when they arrive a few minutes later. Use them to monitor views of fires that can't be seen from the ground.

why? how? perhaps this will shed the light (2, Interesting)

phloydphreak (691922) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551959)

I agree with the why; no matter how cool it would be to be sniffing for wifi and running across the webservers' routing from my home machine, it seems silly to exert so much effort (read money) for the effect. Maybe is is useful for someone who does not want their website to be tracked by big brother(tm)... which is feasible in the US now-a-days. Yet just by doing that, one would need to be using open AP's that one is flying by, just asking for Federal Freddy to not so proverbially nail your ass to the proverbial wall.

Yet I disagree with the blimp. You have to be able to upload your requests, meaning you will need an amplified radio to communicate to the blimp, leading to alot of crosstalk. Same problem with the orbital idea. If you want to solve this problem with uber-transmitters like satellite dishes, you are looking at (i dont remember exactly from cs 428, but somewhere in the range of) 128kbps u/l and 64-48kbps d/l.

Re:why? how? perhaps this will shed the light (2, Interesting)

jnf (846084) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552039)

if nothing else think of the implications of a highly mobile (flying) intranet- the original design was to survive a nuclear holocaust and this further helps that (although i doubt it gets high enough to really make a different)-- however it is a step in that direction. Also, think of military uses, again it would need to be high altitude to be really usable but a highly mobile communications system could replace microwave point to point communications in that sense. but hell, i really dont know what im talking about it's just what popped into my head.

Re:There's competition? (2, Informative)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551967)

Because a flock of small, redundant machines is more reliable than a single one that fails all at once. And more scalable, especially in smaller increments. And more adaptable to multiple simultaneous tasks, as the real world often demands. And possibly cheaper to produce. The same architecture and economics that have multiplied smaller, cheaper networked machines on the ground is also compelling in the air - maybe more so, given the extra risks.

Oh, and the MPUDs you mention are also a much better way to get DoD funding than Blimps of Doom (which are also getting funded, I believe).

Re:There's competition? (1)

figgypower (809463) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552256)

I dunno about the rest but 50,000 feet adds a hell lot of latency that isn't very fun. Go even higher, experience even more latency. I know... damn laws of physics.

Re:There's competition? (2, Insightful)

Cryptacool (98556) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551651)

Real-life applications is probably going to be something like smart sensor networks, you strap a small sensor to each little plane, send it out, tell them to flock together and have maybe one slight larger plane lagging behind which sends all the data back (power requirements for satelite communication and all). a lot harder to shoot down and a lot cheaper (and easier) to replace if it does get shot down.

Re:There's competition? (0)

EnronHaliburton2004 (815366) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551673)

(IIS boxes falling out of high office windows after being thrown do not count.)

Well christ, if IIS does one thing well, it's crashing.

Re:There's competition? (2, Funny)

sentientbeing (688713) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552329)

A prototype of the later is believed to the world's smallest flying web server.

Support: 'The sites gonna be down for a while, the servers crashed.'

User: 'Dos attack or something?'

Support: 'No. It crashed literally.....into a tree'

Re:There's competition? (1)

Fussen (753791) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552381)

How about the ISS's [] boxes falling out of windows?

Uh oh. (2, Funny)

Knnniggit (800801) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551555)

Well, there goes the neighborhood...

Oh great, both at once (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12551558)

Imagine a beowulf clust... I mean... imagine if you ran linux on... I mean... ARRGH!


Re:Oh great, both at once (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12551667)

Let me help you out...

I, for one, welcome our Linux-powered, Beowulf cluster of flying overlords.

Re:Oh great, both at once (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12551731)

dammit, you beat me.

Re:Oh great, both at once (4, Funny)

lordofthechia (598872) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551735)

Can you imagine a beowulf cluster of small craft that track down and eliminate slashdot poster's that reference beowulf clusters?

Add a way for them to deal death by dispensing scalding grits and manufacture them in Soviet Russia and finally justice can be served!

Re:Oh great, both at once (1)

hunterx11 (778171) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551965)

In fact this technology not only exists, but is already considered antiquated by the youth in South Korea.

Re:Oh great, both at once (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12552050)

This story is turning in to a real cluster flock.

Re:Oh great, both at once (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12552366)

It would only work if they were built by old people from Korea and made MEEP! sounds as they grit-bombed.

a more timely meme (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12551865)

Imagine a beowulf cluster of flying robots controlled via Bluetooth from my PlayStation 3 [] !

More news on the gaming story of the decade, which is what Slashdot *should* be reporting right now [] . Be patient, Gamespot is getting hammered, probably because they have the entire PS3 unveiling press conference on decent quality streaming video, including detailed specs, tech demos, tons of awesome-looking game previews, and the unveiling of the actual design (looks bigger than I thought, and what's with that controller?). It's got everything: Cell, NVidia's next chipset, 512 MB total RAM, USB, Ethernet, Wi-Fi, Blu-Ray, slots for Memory sticks (of course) but also SD cards and Compact Flash (!), 2x HDMI, 1080p (!), and of course Bluetooth. It uses the same type of power cord that plugs into your PC's power supply. It's going to be a monster.

Re:a more timely meme (1)

J. Random Luser (824671) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552196)

timely, huh? Release date spring 2006? Expect by then to see MacOS-X running on hardware from Redmond.

BTW I'll give the oblig. reference to Dragonfly OS

Re:Oh great, both at once (1)

ImaLamer (260199) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551932)

In Soviet Union, Government Clusters You!

Re:Oh great, both at once (1)

harishpa (723828) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551952)

Is it a bird ? Is it a plane ? No, its supercluster !!!!!

Those pesky birds, I'll have to fight fire with (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12551589)

Real boids? (4, Informative)

davi_bock (582213) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551598)

I wonder if they base their algorithm on Craig Reynolds' boids [] ?

RTFA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12551676)

...the answer would appear to be yes.

Re:RTFA (1)

davi_bock (582213) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551778)

Hm maybe I missed it -- I didn't see him mentioned in TFA...but it is late. Anyway if he's not, he should be -- as far as I know he was the first to figure out and demonstrate how a few simple rules can generate flocking behavior (Cryptacool lists [] the rules in another comment).

Huh? (-1, Troll)

nacturation (646836) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551599)

Shouldn't this be from the slashdot-has-just-been-trolled department?

Can someone help to.. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12551601)

...seed the Episode 3 torrent, there are 7000 leechers and 2 seeders, wtf ?


Re:Can someone help to.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12552146)

Link? ;)

They just gave "shutdown" a whole new meaning :) (5, Funny)

Seiruu (808321) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551607)

*imagines little MPAA people running around with guns*

Re:They just gave "shutdown" a whole new meaning : (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12552376)

I just read *imagine little MPAA people running around with gnus*... Very lively image, indeed!

Later? (0, Troll)

boingyzain (739759) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551619)

A prototype of the later is believed to the world's smallest flying web server.

Latter, not later. Hey editors, maybe you should try reading your stories before posting them.

Re:Later? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12551785)

You must be new here.

(BTW, if 'New Here' posts in response to this, please mod him down.)

Flcoking Behavior (5, Interesting)

Cryptacool (98556) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551625)

As an A-LIFE dork I think the fact that they got these planes to exhibit true (if they arent lying little light on details) flocking behavior, it's not hard to make things flock it takes basically 3 instructions.

1) Follow the plane/bird in front of you
2) Go about as fast as the plane/birds around you
3) Don't hit other birds/planes, keep a reasonable distance.

Emergent behavior is really amazing if you are interested in it some more check out Its the website of the last alife conference in boston that took place over the summer, really neat stuff in there.

Re:Flcoking Behavior (1)

Cryptacool (98556) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551636)

uhh sorry its late, i didnt finish my though, it's not that hard, _in theory_ to create emergent flocking behavior its just really really neat to see it done with actual planes/helicopters.

Re:Flcoking Behavior (2, Funny)

DietCoke (139072) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551751)

I'm not much for birds, but I am partial to christmas tree flocking.

However, that isn't quite as wild as watching it done with planes, I'm betting.

Re:Flcoking Behavior (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12552045)

Re:Flcoking Behavior (5, Interesting)

dmaduram (790744) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552073)

Hmm, I could be wrong about this, but flocking behavior is *vastly* more complex than the three points that listed in the parent's post.

From what I understand, flocking doesn't result from just 'following the birds adjacent to you', but instead a result of optimizing a complex multiplanar lifting system [] in order to reduce total flight power demand.

Honestly, I'd be suprised if the researchers were able to emulate the real purpose of a flock, instead of just emulating superficial swarming behavior -- there was a very readable article in Science written by two guys at Caltech on flight efficiency & flocking [] , and they conclude with the premise that: "theoretically 25 birds could have a range increase of about 70 percent as compared with a lone bird"

IMO, programmed swarming behavior is nothing new, but if these researchers run with the ball and generate *real* efficiency-optimizing flocking behavior with man-made aircraft, the ramifactions could be huge.

familiar (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12551628)

I saw this on an episode of tale-spin once

Re:familiar (0, Offtopic)

EtherAlchemist (789180) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551670)


Baloo being the bear, and a gray colored one at that. Although some screen grabs [] made him look blue...

I see skynet just got it flying drones (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12551641)

I cant wait till they start strapping sidewinders on these things, like to see them HaXoRz try a D.O.S. attack then!!

drone1: incoming slashdot effect!
drone2: take offensive action!
drone3-10: wi-fi targets aquired

Want funding? (4, Interesting)

MoralHazard (447833) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551647)

I'm amazed that the article didn't include any references to "Homeland Security" or "fighting terrorism". Doesn't it seem like every single goddamned new idea, or retread of an old one, gets stretched in the marketing to push the security applications for terrorism?

Where there's money, though...

Re:Want funding? (1)

mtrisk (770081) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551738)

I suppose these could be used to patrol the border (with Mexico of course) or scout out terrain or a combat zone in Iraq.

Re:Want funding? (1)

lordofthechia (598872) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551787)

From the article "The photo below shows de Nardi's prototype serving a web page"

Great, now its feasable for the slashdot effect to cause real collateral damage. Lets hope the terrorists don't discover the weakness of this new technology...

BTW, anybody have a link to the page hosted by the prototype :)

Re:Want funding? (2, Interesting)

manojar (875389) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552026)

because that is being done in the UK, where homeland security is the bobbies protecting the crown and her jewels.

Re:Want funding? (2, Informative)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552029)

Because they were developed in UK, not US, the land of Freedom.

Re:Want funding? (1)

jnf (846084) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552063)

true and agreed- it is overhyped, but one thing everyone must accept is that governments fund this type of research the most, and most of the time its to either create:

a) better weapons
b) better weapon defenses
c) better communications

with that said it really shouldn't be surprising that everything has military applications .. HOWEVER! i do agree with your base point and understand that what I am saying is slightly different than what you are saying. cheers.

Re:Want funding? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12552083)

Did they mention road construction? []

Re:Want funding? (2, Informative)

eagles-wings (650048) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552100)

I believe that's the University of Essex in the UK - we went on a tour there to see their robotics dept. The helicopter is hovering above their powerd floor so that robots can re-charge whilst on the floor (that's how I could tell it was the UK Essex)

Pretty cool idea though - wish I'd gone to that campus now instead of the Southend one.

Oh well...

Re:Want funding? (1)

Shaper_pmp (825142) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552359)

Nah, you don't.

I went to Essex (BSc and MSc), and while Owen Holland (who I was taught by for MSc) is great, and the CompSci and ESE departments churn out a lot of cool research, I wouldn't advise anyone to go there for undergrad work.

Why? Let's just say the university authorities haven't grasped why treating "undergraduate students" as "consumers" is inherently wrong. University should be about getting out, exploring life and extending your horizons. The UG CompSci programme has a distressing tendency to induct you, throw learning at you for three years, then chuck you out the other end - they seemed completely uninterested in you except as a statistic to push their yearly number of passes up.

I actually had lecturers who made themselves "available" for an hour a week outside of lectures (between maybe 200 students), when/if they could be bothered to attend, or who refused to explain badly-worded assignments, then knocked off marks if people mis-understood.

This is also a university with an unusually high proportion of foreign students (meaning the *majority* of people don't have english as a first language), so outside-lecture support is even more important.

Don't get me wrong - there are some very, very good, dedicated and caring lecturers there, but they tend to get drowned out by the general "corporate" culture.

As I said, I had a great time as a postgrad, but the undergrad scheme is basically high school over again, but with legal drinking.

Re:Want funding? (2, Insightful)

Shaper_pmp (825142) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552318)

Maybe in the US, but here in the UK we're refreshingly clear of unnecessary terrorist paranoia.

Might be because we don't currently have a large, powerful right-wing coalition bent on dominating the entire political process, who needs a constant state of paranoia and fear to create the climate in which they can fulfill their orwellian wet-dreams (it's our "left"-wing party now)...

Or possibly just that we sensibly got all that expansionist empire-building crap out of our systems a hundred years ago, before all the little brown people we were bombing, gassing and shooting had the technology to get back at us.

Now? Oh, you know... bygones.

We know they run linux (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12551675)

But do they run Windows?

Imagine a Windows 2003 server farm of flying cluster planes.

Re:We know they run linux (1)

Tobias.Davis (844594) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551829)

Talk about a server crash, that would be one for the record books!

Can't wait until (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12551693)

they integrate killer bee instincts into the programming. I'd love to see the flyswatter for them

Random fly!! (1)

prabha (538549) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551708)

Considering Bluetooth range in Open Air, i will be surprised if they fly at random formation.
Best and Easier option is to fly Synchronized.

Those magnificent nerds and the flying machines (1)

apache guevara (776292) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551723)

Yes computing power for everyone ... Salvation for the yearning masses on the other end of the digital divide. Ppl can now just wait for the friendly neighbourhood flying web server/chopper running bluetooth and then as far as 30 feet away can some /.ing done via any bluetooth device!

And yes ... you can finally send those naughty bluetooth msgs to the cheerleader next door without hiding in the trash just to stay in range

The world just got better!

It will not be very long (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12551755)

Before the only defense anyone in the world has against the U.S. military will be EMP blasts...

errr US? (1)

icke (661710) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552080)

Since when has Essex been in the US? Here [] is the guy doing the research and here [] is where he is located. Spot the blue stuff between the East coast of the US and Colchester? Not sure Google has mapped out Europe yet mind you ;-) O.

Re:errr US? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12552188)

Just observing. The U.S. government is starting to use technology like this. The Essex peoples just show us exactly the extent of what this kind of technology is capable of. Now it just remains for the U.S. to reimplement it at several hundred times the cost and with lower reliability ^_^

Re:errr US? (1)

Zeussy (868062) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552200)

Google has mapped the UK. Makes an interesting map of the world, North America and United Kingdom. And people say google does no evil, its discarded the rest of the world.

Bullet with Beowulf Wings (2, Funny)

goneutt (694223) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551783)

I'm visualizing a flock of computer controled ultralight orinthopters with wings made of plastic explosive. Commanded, they flock and gather on places where a demolition charge needs to be set. Once a critical number gathers, they organize to make a shaped charge, and BOOM!!!.

Also, visualize a bombsquad guy in all that padding chasing these things with a net.

Re:Bullet with Beowulf Wings (1)

Esion Modnar (632431) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551846)

I'm visualizing a flock of computer controled ultralight orinthopters with wings made of plastic explosive.

This reminds me of that Road Runner cartoon where Wiley Coyote takes a couple dozen sticks of dynamite, straps wings to them, lights the fuses, and releases them from a balloon...

At least for a while, they seem to flock. Whole rest of the cartoon, they keep drifting in on him.

Re:Bullet with Beowulf Wings (2, Informative)

hopethisnickisnottak (882127) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552096)

You can't make a shaped charge like that.
It has to be homogeneous and it has to be solid.

Kind of like this....
**/ - Copper or other fast forming metal in front
| of a lot of High Explosive

If you try to make it from many different masses (as your post seems to say), then the energy developed will bleed away through the gaps making it highly inefficient (and maybe useless).

Did somebody say webserver? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12551812)

FTFS: A prototype of the later is believed to be the world's smallest flying web server.

It would be interesting to follow the effects of slashdotting on that one, quick somebody post a link!

Can we say Michael Crichton??? (4, Interesting)

Supp0rtLinux (594509) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551821)

Sounds like something out of Michael Crichton's Prey []

My Treo/PDA/Smartphone Optimized Site []

Re:Can we say Michael Crichton??? (2, Insightful)

Mister Impressive (875697) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551880)

No, these things don't cluster to form life-like mimics of things or people, don't self-replicate or chew up mp3 players.

I think it's more technology catching up with nature [] .

Re:Can we say Michael Crichton??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12552062)

Sorry, it's way too plausible to have come out of a recent Michael Crichton book.

Re:Can we say Michael Crichton??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12552087)

No, it doesn't sound like the product of an insecure self-obsessed hack.

Re:Can we say Michael Crichton??? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12552276)

You referred to Michael Chricton. You lose.

Expletives (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12551823)

Researchers at the University of Essex are using Linux and tiny embedded computer modules to build fleets of unmanned aircraft that fly in flocking formations

Hey, watch the flocking language!

I hope they have a camera filming that Ultraswarm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12551862)

That's going to be one wicked sweet Slashdotting!

Can you overclock this? (3, Funny)

goneutt (694223) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551905)

I see a natural benefit to building flying webservers. When the /. effect kicks in, you accellerate to increase the cooling, and if nessicary, you take the flock out of populated areas to burst into flames.
Probably work better in england, here in my part of Texas the red tailed hawks would probably take 'em down.

Post a link to... (2, Funny)

andy jenkins (874421) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551961)

...the world's smallest flying web server

and let's crash the focker.

this is cool (0, Troll)

qurk (87195) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551966)

As long as it isn't being run on a Microsoft Windows platform. I'd have issues if this flock of aircraft was being run on the same OS that asked me repeatedly if I was sure I wanted to do this, then did the opposite, wiping out all my data. Please, lord, please, don't let the drones and whatever aircraft of the future be run by microsoft software. PLEASE. Q

this story has everything.... (4, Funny)

jpardey (569633) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551989)

unmanned planes, linux, bluetooth... wait, no breasts. Nevermind.

Maybe RFID/Bluetooth bra.... (1)

Urusai (865560) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552051)

With a Beowulf/Linux cluster and VoIP. Stick technology in anything and it is better.

If only my toilet paper had RFID or Bluetooth, I could tell when I was out, and my cell phone could order more TP from This would give me more time to set up MythTV and water-cool my monitor.

PS3 post (0, Offtopic)

a3217055 (768293) | more than 9 years ago | (#12551993)

Gumstix are nice but I have not found anything useful for it, bought mine did some devel work, and then sold it on ebay. PS The PS3 coverage at E3 rocks, where is the coverage on that ...

Bluetooth Season (2, Funny)

Reteo Varala (743) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552049)

So, by using the right virus, and a bluetooth rifle, you can shoot these planes down?

So... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12552066)

So what we have here then... is a Cluster Flock?

Re:So... (0, Redundant)

flynns (639641) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552280)


Thank you, Sir AC. You have made me laugh in hysterics on a horribly miserably day.

Imagine... (1)

Omnedon (701049) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552082)

... a beowulf cluster... Err... Why is Alfred Hitchcock staring at me..?

Someone mention web server? (1)

om3ga (675900) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552091)

just wait until the site hosted on one of these things gets slashdotted.. it'll be raining fire, literally!

Birdbrain? (1)

J. Random Luser (824671) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552094)

Ahh, now I do feel superior...

Interesting factoid: a typical flock of starlings (about 2,000 birds) contains as much brain tissue as a single human.

How good for security? (1)

om3ga (675900) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552116)

All we need now is BTEfnet hosted on a cluster of these things.. lets see the MPAA catch em now... Program the things to fly off when under attack!

Although when the next Lost or Dr Who episode comes out... Expect a few of these things to fall from the sky.

Great, thats all we need.... (1)

cold fjord (826450) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552117)

Linux runs skynet... literally. :(

If it ran Windows we would have a chance. Now the rise of the Machines is inevitable. :(

Why couldn't people stick to porting to toasters and watches?

obligatory (1)

maharg (182366) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552189)

I for one welcome our bird-like flocking-flying parallel-processing bluetooth-connected linux-cluster overlords !

what's next ? flying pigs with embedded linux running on hardware powered by blood sugar connected by light-teleportation doing acrobatic displays whilst hosting online PS3 games. I think so !

120mph?! (1)

wellard1981 (699843) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552220)

A Chris Foss Classic Wot 4 will never reach 120mph! This is because the thickness of the wing., With the equipment in the wing, I hope they've increased the strength in the wing.

And they already say that linux geeks... (1)

jurt1235 (834677) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552246)

flock together, now their systems do that too.

This could work with driverless cars (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 9 years ago | (#12552278)

The following are obvious ideas, but maybe publishing them could prevent patenting.
* A queue of cars is also like a flock
* Onboard computers can co-operate in helping drive the cars, or entirely drive the cars
* The cars can use a suitable operating system, such as Linux.
* The cars can communicate through radio, light, sound etc., using any protocol, for example blue-tooth.
* At a junction, any car can choose to leave its current flock and join one heading more towards the car's destination.
* Each flock of cars uses external navigation information from satellites, broadcast radio, networks such as the Internet, contactless chips in the road surface, etc.
* The flock co-operates to receive navigation information, giving greater total bandwidth and better positional accuracy.
* Flocks share information with other flocks, reducing the effect of traffic jams.
* A car can reserve a parking place or other service, to be ready as (or just before) it arrives.
* A driver can pay money to adjust the priority of his or her car, giving it priority when cars decide who should overtake, or who should go in the "fast lane", or park closest to their exact destination.

Flying Routers (1)

Nurgled (63197) | more than 9 years ago | (#12552311)

It would be interesting to have packs of these things fly around in a pattern and meet up with one another periodically and share pending packets. They would also periodically fly near base stations and exchange packets with the network there. It would be like a fully-networked version of RFC 1149!

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