Trail Formation Using Large Swarms of Minimal Robots

Pere Molins*, Namid Stillman, Sabine Hauert

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Due to the recent advances in robotics, large numbers of robots can be created that exhibit ‘swarm-like’ behavior. These robots, typically small and low-cost with restricted sensing, often exhibit Brownian motion similar to micro-particles. The development of algorithms that create collective behavior that is robust to external pressures has applications in outdoor exploration, search and rescue operations, and nanomedicine. Here, we outline how a swarm of minimal robots, exhibiting only Brownian motion and with limited sensing capabilities, can form trails using mechanisms inspired by diffusion-limited aggregation (DLA). We demonstrate how the trail is robust to obstacles and efficient at finding the closest target. We validate this algorithm both in simulation as well as in reality, using a swarm of up to 100 robots, and highlight the optimum requirements for trail formation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)693-710
Number of pages18
JournalCybernetics and Systems
Issue number8
Early online date7 Nov 2019
Publication statusPublished - 17 Nov 2019


  • Chain formation
  • diffusion-limited aggregation
  • minimal robotics
  • path formation
  • reaction-diffusion systems
  • swarm robotics


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