Currently, there is a large body of research on multi-agent systems addressing their different system theoretic aspects. Aerial swarms as one type of multi-agent robotic systems have recently gained huge interest due to their potential applications. However, aerial robot groups are complex multi-disciplinary systems and usually research works focus on specific system aspects for particular applications. The purpose of this review is to provide an overview of the main motivating applications that drive the majority of research works in this field, and summarize fundamental and common algorithmic components required for their development.
Most system demonstrations of current aerial swarms are based on simulations, some have shown experiments using few 10 s of robots in controlled indoor environment, and limited number of works have reported outdoor experiments with small number of autonomous aerial vehicles. This indicates scalability issues of current swarm systems in real world environments. This is mainly due to the limited confidence on the individual robot’s localization, swarm-level relative localization, and the rate of exchanged information between the robots that is required for planning safe coordinated motions.
This paper summarizes the main motivating aerial swarm applications and the associated research works. In addition, the main research findings of the core elements of any aerial swarm system, state estimation and mission planning, are also presented. Finally, this paper presents a proposed abstraction of an aerial swarm system architecture that can help developers understand the main required modules of such systems.