A research team at the University of Pennsylvania has successfully demonstrated close formation work among large networked groups of autonomous vehicles, and the results are visually captivating. The SWARMS project (Scalable sWarms of Autonomous Robots and Mobile Sensors) involves a team from the university's general robotics, automation, sensing and perception lab. Work there on autonomous multicopters has led to demonstrations of the vehicles performing obstacle navigation and precise maneuvering while flying in large formations and operating as a group of networked autonomous vehicles. In plain English, you'll want to watch all 16 of them autonomously fly a cross-over figure eight pattern at 1:22 in the video.
The goals of the project are to understand swarming behaviors in nature and identify models for swarm behavior in large networked groups of autonomous vehicles. The research could lead to the development of engineered systems equipped with multi-vehicle sensing and control to carry out missions with the ability to respond as a group to high-level commands. It aims to determine if groups of autonomous vehicles can function effectively in a hostile environment without one master unit (leader) and with limited communications between its elements. Such a group could potentially include individual members that could dynamically change roles to better adapt to a dynamic environment in pursuit of an objective.