Colias: Autonomous Robots to Replicate Swarm Behavior

Replicating behavior and working together to accomplish a certain task.  This new technology will make it more feasible and economical for researchers to replicate swarm behavior according to scientists involved with the Colias project.


Colias, named after a genus of butterfly can be used to investigate collective behaviors and swarm applications. The autonomous robot is small and fast, and can be replicated in large numbers.  The team, led by the University of Lincoln in the United Kingdom along with Tsinghua University in China say they have replicated a honeybee swarm.  Long-range infrared sensors enable the robot to communicate with its neighbors at close proximity range of 0.5 cm to two meters, while three short-range sensors along with an independent processor enables the robots to spot obstacles.  A Colias robot moves at a speed of 35 cm/s which is pretty fast.


“The decentralized control of robotic swarms can be achieved by providing well-defined interaction rules for each individual robot,” says Lincoln School of Computer Science’s Farshad Arvin. “Colias has been used in a bio-inspired scenario, showing that it is extremely responsive to being used to investigate collective behaviors.”

colias4The key to this research if for simple physical robots to cooperatively perform tasks. It is not the first time scientists have created swarming robots so all the researchers know that robots meant for swarm research suffer from certain drawbacks.  Speed, mobility, range of communication, or cost are some negative points of this research.  Cost is probably the biggest hindrance faced, especially when in some cases we’re talking hundreds of dollars per robot.  To save the cost factor the research is therefore conducted with software instead of hardware which can lead to inaccurate results.  The Colias team’s plus point was the robot’s price tag of $41.  If this kicks off the research will open doors for robotics in the future.

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