From Insects to Micro Air Vehicles—A Comparison of Reactive Plume Tracking Strategies

  • Patrick P. Neumann
  • Victor Hernandez Bennetts
  • Achim J. Lilienthal
  • Matthias Bartholmai
Conference paper
Part of the Advances in Intelligent Systems and Computing book series (AISC, volume 302)


Insect behavior is a common source of inspiration for roboticists and computer scientists when designing gas-sensitive mobile robots. More specifically, tracking airborne odor plumes, and localization of distant gas sources are abilities that suit practical applications such as leak localization and emission monitoring. Gas sensing with mobile robots has been mostly addressed with ground-based platforms and under simplified conditions and thus, there exist a significant gap between the outstanding insect abilities and state-of-the-art robotics systems. As a step toward practical applications, we evaluated the performance of three biologically inspired plume tracking algorithms. The evaluation is carried out not only with computer simulations, but also with real-world experiments in which, a quadrocopter-based micro Unmanned Aerial Vehicle autonomously follows a methane trail toward the emitting source. Compared to ground robots, micro UAVs bring several advantages such as their superior steering capabilities and fewer mobility restrictions in complex terrains. The experimental evaluation shows that, under certain environmental conditions, insect like behavior in gas-sensitive UAVs is feasible in real-world environments.


Autonomous micro UAV Mobile robot olfaction Gas source localization Reactive plume tracking Biologically inspired robots 



The authors thank the participating colleagues from BAM and Örebro University. They also express their gratitude to BMWi (MNPQ Program; file number 28/07) and Robotdalen (Gasbot; project number 8140) for funding the research.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Patrick P. Neumann
    • 1
  • Victor Hernandez Bennetts
    • 2
  • Achim J. Lilienthal
    • 2
  • Matthias Bartholmai
    • 1
  1. 1.BAM Federal Institute for Materials Research and TestingBerlinGermany
  2. 2.Örebro University, AASS Research CenterörebroSweden

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