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"Ageless" Aerospace Vehicles (AAV)

The AAV Concept Demonstrator (in collaboration with NASA)  is a hardware multi-cellular sensing and communication network (a smart "skin"), whose aim is to detect and react to impacts caused by projectiles that, for a vehicle in space, might be micro-meteoroids or space debris. Biologically-inspired  AAVs are expected to be capable of structural self-assessment and repair. In particular, we investigated self-organization of impact boundaries enclosing critically damaged areas, and ant colony-inspired impact networks connecting remote cells that have detected non-critical impacts.

A multi-cellular AAV skin traces impact boundaries and spread despite connectivity disruptions and cell failures - analogous to the clotting of a wound on a mammal and the regeneration of neurons by re-growing severed axons within a myelin sheath. It is desirable that such boundaries form continuously connected closed circuits, and are robust to fluctuations caused by proximity to the impact. A possible first step towards self-repairing ability is self-replication of multi-cellular shapes within the impact boundaries.

The solutions (impact boundaries, impact networks, self-replicating shapes) were evolved by maximising information-theoretic fitess functions, rewarding spatiotemporal stability of the structures. Simulation examples of some algorithms (2004-2006):

 Simulated scenario (right-click to download)  Colour coding   Size  Codec
 self-organising impact boundaries  white cells: critically damaged
 red cells: communication errors
 yellow cells: no reliable neighbours
  ~39Mb  Microsoft Video 1
 shape replication  as above   ~31Mb  wmv3
 reconfigurable path formation between cells  white cells: non-critically damaged   ~100Mb  wmv3

Selected references

M. Prokopenko, P. Wang, D. C. Price, P. Valencia, M. Foreman, A. J. Farmer. Self-organizing Hierarchies in Sensor and Communication Networks . Artificial Life, Special Issue on Dynamic Hierarchies, Vol. 11(4), 407-426, 2005.

M. Prokopenko, P. Wang, M. Foreman, P. Valencia, D. C. Price, G. T. Poulton. On Connectivity of Reconfigurable Impact Networks in Ageless Aerospace Vehicles . The Journal of Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Vol. 53(1), 36-58, 2005.

M. Prokopenko, P. Wang. On Self-referential Shape Replication in Robust Aerospace Vehicles. In Proceedings of the 9th International Conference on the Simulation and Synthesis of Living Systems (ALIFE9), Boston, USA, September, 2004.

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