"HUNT" Seeks Inspiration From Nature's Hunting & Swarming Behaviors

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 some circumstances.

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.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 nest structures.

"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 systems.

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.




Apr 14, 2009
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