Teams of small (mm-to-cm scale) robots, often known as swarm-bots, can provide unique functionality owing to their small form factor, distributed sensing capabilities, resilience to disruptions and agent-loss, and likely low cost. Such swarm-bots are being increasingly touted to support various indoor surveillance, hazard detection, and search and rescue missions. This paper presents the conceptual design, fabrication, and testing of a new cm-scale wheeled swarm-bot. Simulated investigation of a simple particle-swarm-inspired approach to coordinated path planning for these swarm-bots is also presented. The swarm bot is developed around a modular platform, comprising snap-on (3D printed) structural components, a stepper-motor actuated wheel system, a Raspberry Pi computing node, a wireless radio module, a Lipo battery, and proximity sensors; all components are readily detachable, thereby allowing reconfiguration flexibility. Through three design generations, a stable prototype offering >20cm/s speed and ∼50 min endurance, was developed, assembled and tested. A virtual simulated environment is developed by combining MATLAB-based modules and a V-Rep environment, in order to simulate the coordinated operation of these swarm-bots. A 78% rate of success in completing target (light source) search missions was observed during the numerical experiments, and performance robustness was observed to improve with increasing swarm size.

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