Towards Large-Scale Scalable MAV Swarms with ROS2 and UWB-based Situated Communication

Jorge Peña Queralta, Yu Xianjia, Li Qingqing, Tomi Westerlund

The design and development of swarms of micro-aerial vehicles (MAVs) has recently gained significant traction. Collaborative aerial swarms have potential applications in areas as diverse as surveillance and monitoring, inventory management, search and rescue, or in the entertainment industry. Swarm intelligence has, by definition, a distributed nature. Yet performing experiments in truly distributed systems is not always possible, as much of the underlying ecosystem employed requires some sort of central control. Indeed, in experimental proofs of concept, most research relies on more traditional connectivity solutions (e.g., Wi-Fi), and robotics middlewares. In terms of positioning, external localization solutions, such as motion capture (MOCAP) systems, visual markers, or ultra-wideband (UWB) anchors are often used. Alternatively, intra-swarm solutions are often limited in terms of, e.g., range or field-of-view. Essential to efficient collaboration within aerial swarms are reliable communication and accurate localization. Multiple works rely on situated communication as the basis for effective collaboration. Research and development has been supported by platforms such as the e-puck, the kilobot, or the crazyflie quadrotors. In terms of reproducibility, it is also worth mentioning the MRS Multi-UAV platform. However, we believe there is a need for inexpensive platforms such as the Crazyflie with more advanced onboard processing capabilities and sensors, while offering scalability and robust communication and localization solutions. In the following, we present a platform for research and development in aerial swarms currently under development, where we leverage Wi-Fi mesh connectivity and the distributed ROS2 middleware together with UWB ranging and communication for situated communication. We present a platform for building towards large-scale swarms of autonomous MAVs leveraging the ROS2 middleware, Wi-Fi mesh connectivity, and UWB ranging and communication. The platform is based on the Ryze Tello Drone, a Raspberry Pi Zero W as a companion computer together with a camera module, and a Decawave DWM1001 UWB module for ranging and basic communication.