What is the Colony Scout?

Swarm intelligence\'swòrm in-'te-lə-jən(t)s\ describes the collective behavior of decentralized, self-organized systems, natural or artificial.

Colony 3

The Colony project of the Carnegie Mellon University Robotics Club demonstrates the capabilities of a colony of simple low-cost robots that are able to localize relative to each other using "swarm intelligence". Each device gathers information about its environment via simple one-dimensional sensors, such as IR beacons, and shares data via an ad hoc wireless network.

Colony Scout Accessories

The Scout is designed as an evolution of the current platform employed by the Carnegie Mellon project. It builds on the technology of the Colony III robots (top picture) and offers new functionality to each individual robot. In this way each robot can offer more intelligence to the swarm, operate over more extreme terrain, and cover larger distances more quickly. Scout takes the lessons gleaned from several years of research and aims to provide a simple interface into a powerful set of reliable technologies.

Project Goals

At the outset of the Scout project in April of 2009, several goals were defined. The new robot should have:

  • enhancements over the current sensor array
  • a more robust localization scheme
  • be physically capable of traversing complex terrain (indoor, possibly outdoor)
  • an adaptable design that can be modified for different purposes
  • be capable of object/environment manipulation
  • similar form factor and power requirements
  • Must be low-cost (sub $500 in qty)

The cost restriction has been a major driving factor for most design decisions and even the motivation for the project. There are many commerical solutions that offer compact and capable robots, but at a price point unsuitable for undergraduate studies and invididual research.

We aimed to develop a platform enticing to individuals, companies, and research institutions, but at a price point that doesn't hinder innonvative research.

Feature Comparison

TechColony IIIScout
Processor8MHz 8-bit AVR600MHz 32-bit Cortex A8 + 16MHz 8-bit AVR
Rangefinders5 Position (1.5-12in) IR48 Position, 360-degree coverage (0-20ft) Sonar
Battery6.0VDC 2.6Ah NiMH7.4VDC 3.0Ah Lion
Locomotion2 Wheel Differential Drive4WD Skid Steer
Ground ClearanceNone1.34" Clearance with Rocker Pivot to conform to terrain
Cliff DetectionNone3 Side Drop-off Detection
BOM16 Point IR4 Point IR with modulation and noise suppression
WirelessZigbee, 300 ft rangeZigbee, >300 ft range
Charging RemovableIntegrated homing and charging contacts
ExtensionNone Accessory/Expansion hardpoints and power/data connection
ProductionBotricsIn-house design and manufacturing for full control over device lifetime

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