Remote exploration of environments which are either hazardous to humans or difficult for humans to access is one of the major uses of robots today. When dealing with extraterrestrial bodies, the time lag for a signal to control the robot becomes large enough that the robot must be able to navigate autonomously, and even handle higher-level mission planning. On earth, there are times when it would be convenient to have a robot operate autonomously.
In many cases, such as mapping a large area, or setting up a network of sensors, it is more convienent to have several robots working together. Most previous work done on swarm problems has used large numbers of very simple robots. For example, iRobot has created a scaleable swarming system for small, simple robots. These robots are very good at finding objects, but not very good at mapping, because they are too simple to hold map data - they can only "know" information about an area with robots in it! By using higher-powered systems, we hope to generate data that can be saved and used by future "generations" (of robots!).
It would be useful to have several intelligent, autonomous robots interacting to work on projects. Our team hopes to have three of the Evolution ER-1s coordinating their efforts to map out an area using wireless internet access. In the future, having several robots working together could allow us to more quickly map out areas where humans cannot safely go.