Animals, sea creatures, birds, and insects all have different kinds of
hunting and swarming behaviors that they employ in groups whenever
necessary. These strategies range from incredibly simple to highly
sophisticated networks of roles and exist even between different species in
This is what is fascinating the scientists participating in the Office of
Navy Research (ONR) 5-year project on the biological swarming and hunting
behavior of animals, fish, birds, and insects. Ten U.S.
universities are participating in the study represented buy engineers, computer
scientists, and biologists. Their project is called HUNT, short for
Heterogeneous Unmanned Networked Teams.
Yesterday, I reported that the U.S. Air Force is studying the anatomical
structure and behavior of bats to help design its future unmanned aerial
vehicles (UAVs) with enough flexibility and power to withstand winds and
weather. What the HUNT study is looking at is how can UAVs with diverse
purposes work together to achieve a common goal. For example, male and female
lions have different roles; however, a male will help a lioness to hunt in
certain situations. How can UAF"S with different purposes and roles,
be programmed to "know" when it is required to perform another role.
Stephen Pratt's ants carrying a force sensor, allowing him to develop understanding about teamwork and measurable collective effort.
Earlier this month, the Arizona State University's ONR team, headed by
biologist Stephen Pratt, convened a workshop for the members of HUNT, and
Pratt explained why military and other engineering researchers are looking to
nature for solutions:
“Robustness, scalability, and the ability to function without complex
central control are things that are really desirable in an artificial system,”
Pratt said. “All kinds of natural systems have them; from the movement of fish
in schools and birds in flocks to social insects building specific, complex
"One of ONR’s long-term grand challenges is how to deal with the
interaction of large numbers of fairly sophisticated autonomous vehicles –
flying drones, vehicles underwater or on land,” Pratt explained. “All
kinds of increasingly diverse and complex artificial systems will have to
interact with each other and with humans."
The University of Pennsylvania, one of the ten ONR participant universities
in the HARM project has set up another project called SWARMS - Scalable sWarms
of Autonomous Robots and Mobile Sensors -- to bring together experts in
artificial intelligence, control theory, robotics, systems engineering, and
biology with the goal of establishing methodologies for analyzing natural
swarming, hunting, and building behaviors and applying them to engineered
The database of information on hunting behaviors of various species has been set up on the SWARMS website, which is open to anyone. It contains some fascinating research reports for anyone who is interested.... particularly for those seeking a field of study.
ASU News, SWARMS