In fire ant colonies, a small number of them do most of the work while the rest look for other work or do nothing at all. They do so by retreating from a place where a clog is about to happen. Applying the ant optimization strategy to autonomous robots avoids mechanized clogs and gets the work done with the least amount of energy.
Optimizing the activity of autonomous underground robots could be useful for tasks such as disaster recovery, mining or even digging underground shelters for future planetary explorers. The study was carried out at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
The ants know how to avoid creating clogs by retreating from tunnels already occupied by other workers -- and sometimes by not doing anything much at all. This strategy might help individual robots to work without having perfect information about what every other robot is doing.