I am a postdoctoral researcher at the Artificial Intelligence lab IRIDIA, working with Prof. Marco Dorigo. My research is funded by an F.R.S.-FNRS research grant that I was awarded for my project Security by design: Preventing attacks on robot swarms.
My research career began in 2014, when I obtained a B.Sc. degree in Cognitive Science at the University of Tübingen, Germany, followed in 2016 by an M.Sc. degree in Artificial Intelligence at the Radboud University, Nijmegen, Netherlands. During my M.Sc. studies, I was a guest student at TU Delft, Netherlands, where I also completed my M.Sc. thesis.
28 June 2023
Our article Robot swarms neutralize harmful Byzantine robots using a blockchain-based token economy by Volker Strobel, Alexandre Pachecho, and Marco Dorigo was published in Science Robotics (free access via this link).
In this study, we demonstrate the potential of blockchain technology to secure the coordination of robot swarms. In experiments conducted with both real and simulated robots, we show how blockchain technology enables a robot swarm to neutralize harmful robots without human intervention, thus enabling the deployment of autonomous and safe robot swarms.
A robot swarm consists of a large number of autonomous robots that exploit self-organization to coordinate their activities and to solve complex problems that are beyond the capabilities of the single robots. Even though the inherent robustness to failure, scalability, and flexibility of a self-organized system makes of robot swarms ideal candidates for a number of real world tasks, current studies have limited their attention to safe laboratory settings and have virtually ignored security issues.
The main goal of my research is to build a secure robot swarm that is scalable to real-world applications. To enable this, I address security issues such as how to certify the swarm behavior and how to make the swarm behavior tamper proof in a fully decentralized way. In the project, the swarm members interact and coordinate via a blockchain, a distributed database first developed in the context of the digital currency Bitcoin. The blockchain is intended to establish a secure communication medium for the robot swarm. Smart contracts—programming code on the blockchain that is automatically executed if a specified event occurs—will introduce unstoppable and secure coordination mechanisms using the Ethereum framework. The project seeks to investigate possibilities and limitations of combining blockchain and swarm robotics technologies to produce secure robot swarms.
I conduct experiments to test robot swarm coordination mechanisms based on smart contracts and blockchains and I analyze the obtained swarm dynamics and evaluate their robustness in a number of different scenarios. My objectives are to identify critical steps in designing secure systems, to show implications of attacker strategies, and to propose solutions to security challenges in swarm robotics.