From insects to micro air vehicles—a comparison of reactive plume tracking strategies

Patrick P. Neumann, Victor Hernandez Bennetts, Achim J. Lilienthal, Matthias Bartholmai

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review

19 Scopus citations


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.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationIntelligent Autonomous Systems - Proceedings of the 13th International Conference IAS, 2014
EditorsHiroaki Yamaguchi, Nathan Michael, Karsten Berns, Emanuele Menegatti
PublisherSpringer Verlag
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9783319083377
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes
Event13th International Conference on Intelligent Autonomous Systems, IAS 2014 - Padova, Italy
Duration: 15 Jul 201418 Jul 2014

Publication series

NameAdvances in Intelligent Systems and Computing
ISSN (Print)2194-5357


Conference13th International Conference on Intelligent Autonomous Systems, IAS 2014


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


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