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Some amazing formation flying experiments have been performed with a team of nano quadrotors at the University of Pennsylvania’s the GRASP Lab. The Quadcopter vehicles were developed by KMel Robotics.

The quadrotors are X-shaped with a central control unit at their center. Based on commands, 16 quadcopters change direction, land, navigate past obstacles, and even fly in a figure-eight formation. When tossed into the air, a quadrotor is able to reorient itself automatically into an upright position.

The General Robotics, Automation, Sensing and Perception (GRASP) Laboratory at the University of Pennsylvania demonstrates Scalable sWarms of Autonomous Robots and Mobile Sensors (swarms.org), flying in air-born coordinated swarms that are dynamically reconfigurable.

Geo-referencing software, developed by a research team from West Virginia University, measures distances to an aerial image and estimate the geo-location of each ground asset of interest.

Toy manufacturer Parrot announced the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 with a live, on-board camera and a control app for iOS and Android last month.

DIY Drones like the ArduCopter offer both remote control and autonomous flight, including waypoints, mission planning and telemetry. Dronepedia is an open source effort to collect knowledge about amateur UAVs. ArduPilot is an autopilot, based on the Arduino platform. The PhoneDrone board connects Android devices to RC and UAVs controllers. DroneCell uses a cell connection.

LTE-Advanced adds richer MIMO support with up to 8×8 MIMO downlink streams. It can deliver 1 gigabit per second.

Very large Multiple In, Multiple Out (MIMO) antennas in 16×16, 32×32, 64×64 and even larger arrays are, no doubt, being studied by Mitre, Aerospace.org and others. They might be installed in the surface of high altitude airships or integrated into satellite swarms.

Fractionated Spacecraft operate like a WiFi mesh in the sky. QB50 will use 50 double CubeSats, separated by a few hundred kilometres, and carrying identical sensors for multi-point, in-situ measurements. Limited orbit control using micropropulsion are now used.

But imagine 8, 16, 32 or 64 MIMO arrays, mounted on Quadcopter swarms, shape-shifting as demand requires.

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