As technology continues to evolve, the potential for teams of robots to tackle complex missions becomes increasingly apparent. The ability for teams of robots to cover long distances, visit multiple sites simultaneously, and monitor large geographical areas offers a wide range of possibilities. In order to advance research in this field, there is a need for reliable hardware and software platforms that can facilitate the testing of robot teams in specific real-world settings.

Recently, researchers at the University of Cambridge unveiled the Cambridge RoboMaster, a platform designed for multi-robot research. This platform consists of a fleet of customized RoboMaster wheeled robots, along with software that enables simulation and training of the robots on specific tasks. The goal of this platform is to develop solutions for collective intelligence in multi-robot and multi-agent systems, incorporating methods from machine learning, planning, and control for applications such as automated transport, logistics, environmental monitoring, and search and rescue.

The research team led by Amanda Prorok set out to create a platform that met several key requirements, including state-of-the-art computing power, speed, agility, and durability. They opted to use customized versions of DJI RoboMaster S1 robots, originally designed for high school and university competitions. Over the course of three years, the platform was continuously improved with upgraded hardware, sensors, and control software to enhance its capabilities. Through this process, the platform was utilized in six different projects, proving its effectiveness and versatility.

The Cambridge RoboMaster offers a compact and powerful robotic platform for advancing multi-agent research. By enhancing the DJI RoboMaster S1 with a more capable main computer and custom controller, the platform is able to achieve a top speed of 4.5 m/s, making it highly agile for multi-robot experiments in indoor environments. The platform strikes a balance between size and capabilities, overcoming the limitations of smaller robots with limited computing power and larger, more expensive robots that are less practical for indoor use.

One of the key advantages of the Cambridge RoboMaster is its accessibility and affordability, with a cost of approximately $700. This makes it an ideal tool for researchers looking to test algorithms for multi-agent systems without breaking the bank. The platform includes a control stack for full autonomy, peer-to-peer communication, and the ability to run reinforcement learning policies directly from simulation frameworks, streamlining the research process.

The Cambridge RoboMaster has proven to be a versatile, reliable, and accessible testbed for multi-robot research. It has been used successfully in various tests, showcasing its power efficiency and versatility in navigating both indoor and outdoor environments. While not intended for direct use in real-world settings, the platform serves as an ideal proxy for testing algorithms relevant to domains such as warehouse automation and logistics. Moving forward, the research team has plans to further enhance the platform with improvements in on-board sensing, decentralized communication, and control, with an eye toward expanding into drone research.

The Cambridge RoboMaster represents a significant advancement in multi-robot research, providing a valuable platform for experimentation and innovation in the field. Its combination of affordability, advanced capabilities, and versatility make it a valuable tool for researchers worldwide looking to push the limits of multi-robot and multi-agent systems research.

Technology

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