Bat-Inspired Multi-Agent Systems: Modeling and Experiments

Nicole Abaid, Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics, Virginia Tech

Multi-agent systems, which distribute information and action over many interacting units, are increasingly common in engineering applications. As a result, engineers across disciplines are challenged to design coordination strategies to enable these teams to achieve common goals. Such large-scale coordination tasks are well executed in nature by animal groups exhibiting collective behavior, such as fish schools and bird flocks, where complex structures emerge from decisions based on local information without a centralized leader. Among these groups, bat swarms stand out as a unique example, since the echolocation they use for navigation and hunting is an active form of sensing and thus can be intercepted by their peers. Unlike groups that use passive sensing such as vision, bat swarms may be able to achieve types of collective behavior applicable to engineered systems using active sensing, such as AUV teams using sonar. In this talk, we develop models to capture the collective motion and the information sharing in multi-agent systems that incorporate active sensing inspired by bat swarms, and we study them analytically and through numerical simulations. Experiments for validating aspects of these models against wild bat swarms are discussed, and a sonar sensor capable of producing bat-inspired signals is presented.

Nicole Abaid received her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in mathematics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2003 and the University of Kansas in 2008, respectively, and her Ph.D. in mechanical engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of New York University in 2012. Since August 2012, she has worked as an assistant professor in the Department of Engineering Science and Mechanics at Virginia Tech, which has merged to become the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics. Her research focuses on dynamic systems, animal behavior, and bio-inspired mechatronics.

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