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Autonomous Swarms for Extreme Conditions (ASEC)

Norman, Bailey Richard
Robinson, Nic
Jennings, Trey
Burrows, Garrett
Swarms consist of numerous entities that work together to achieve an objective. There are two broad schools of swarms, centralized and decentralized, which refers to the method of organization employed by the swarm. With the abundance and readiness of modern processing equipment, most modern swarms use a centralized model where control and instructions converge at one point, usually at a controller station. While practical, the centralized model opens the door for problems that can be avoided with some compromise by a decentralized system. However, one of the primary benefits of using a decentralized swarm model, security, is undermined by the inclusion of onboard central processing units (CPUs). Our project, Autonomous Swarms for Extreme Conditions (ASEC) project aimed to demonstrate the feasibility of using a decentralized swarm with no central processing units. Specifically, we were tasked with: 1. the design and fabrication of three rover-like swarm agents. 2. creating a swarm agent that could withstand “extreme” conditions (defined later). 3. producing these agents in a cost-efficient manner with a low-price final product. Decentralized swarms with no CPUs are often overlooked and overshadowed by their more common CPU-based, centralized counterparts (CCCs); CCCs hold a clear advantage in the complexity of tasks they can complete. Additionally, with modern encryption methods, they are secure to most common attacks. CCCs become ineffective when their cyber protection, communication, or required resources become unavailable. ASEC acts as a proof of concept for a rover-based, CPUless, decentralized swarm. To achieve these goals, the ASEC design group devised a solution that would require no CPU: taking inspiration from insect behavior and utilizing analog electronics. The project yielded successful results but certain areas, namely swarm communication, underperformed. Our client, Dr. Borowczak, is a faculty member in Computer Science that specializes in cybersecurity. Decentralized swarms are particularly valuable to him because they are much more resilient to common attacks. Whereas an attack on the center of a centralized system can be devastating, a decentralized swarm can withstand individual attacks without compromising the rest of the system. The work performed by the ASEC team will aid Dr. Borowczak in understanding the challenges that face the physical implementation of decentralized swarms (DS). The applications of such a swarm are quite numerous. What is lost in processing capability by the non-inclusion of a CPU is gained in resilience. With less sensitive electronics and simpler communication channels, DS can be deployed to areas with punishing conditions such as space, irradiated environments, disaster zones, and conflict zones. While our specific design will not be implemented in any of these environments, the core principles of DS agent design can be carried over. Every component of the agents acts as a potential vector of attack and manipulation; thus, the ASEC team was careful to weigh design choices with potential future impacts.
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University of Wyoming. Libraries
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engineering,robots,Autonomous Swarms,mechanical engineering,honors capstone,senior design
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