Overview

"Grex" is the Latin word for a herd or flock - and such a group, team, or swarm is the nucleus of this project. The key thrust of the research and development project funded by the 6th framework programme of the EU is to create a conceptual framework and middleware systems to coordinate a swarm of diverse, heterogeneous physical objects (robotic vehicles) working in cooperation to achieve a well defined practical goal in an optimised manner.

The emphasis will be placed on methods and tools enabling a solution of a multitude of problems that cannot be solved by one physical system alone, and which can ensure a better and provable quality of the results. Due to their increasing importance for various European industries and research (e.g. biotechnology, pharmacy, and energy but also homeland security), the emphasis will be placed on the coordination of marine vehicles. These systems are steadily becoming the tool par excellence for the exploration and exploitation of the ocean. The technical problems that must be solved to operate swarms of vehicles at sea is many respects far more complex than those that occur on land or space. The absence of reliable, GPS-based navigation systems, the lack of reliable communications, and the presence of external unpredictable disturbances present complex problems that cannot possibly be found in other fields. However, the solutions found and the systems developed in this project can certainly be adapted to other commercial and scientific areas.

The project will witness the development of theoretical and practical tools for multiple system cooperation, bridging the gap between concept and practice. Underpinning the development effort is the concern that the technology developed must be sufficiently generic in order to interface pre-existing heterogeneous systems. Coordination methods that address the problems caused by faulty communications will be developed and tested. Methods for coordinated mission control, effectively enabling end-users to effectively program and follow the state of progress of multi-vehicle missions will be implemented. The project will also witness the development of formal methods for software validation and testing. The use of perception and communication techniques will also be exploited to enable ad hoc formation of information and sensor networks among a swarm of vehicles. A series of field trials will be carried out to assess the efficacy of the methods developed. They will conclude and demonstrate the success of the GREX project.

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