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A reactive coordination scheme for a many-robot system

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3 Author(s)
K. S. Evans ; Digital Directory, Knoxville, TN, USA ; C. Unsal ; J. S. Bay

This paper presents a novel approach for coordinating a homogeneous system of mobile robots using implicit communication in the form of broadcasts. The broadcast-based coordination scheme was developed for the Army Ant swarm-a system of small, relatively inexpensive mobile robots that can accomplish complex tasks by cooperating as a team. The primary drawback, however, of the Army Ant system is that the absence of a central supervisor poses difficulty in the coordination and control of the agents. Our coordination scheme provides a global “group dynamic” that controls the actions of each robot using only local interactions. Coordination of the swarm is achieved with signals we call “heartbeats”. Each agent broadcasts a unique heartbeat and responds to the collective behavior of all other heartbeats. We generate heartbeats with van der Pol oscillators. In this application, we use the known properties of coupled van der Pol oscillators to create predictable group behavior. Some of the properties and behaviors of coupled van der Pol oscillators are discussed in detail. We emphasize the use of this scheme to allow agents to simultaneously perform an action such as lifting, steering, or changing speed. The results of experiments performed on three actual heartbeat circuits are presented and the behavior of the realized system is compared to simulated results. We also demonstrate the application of the coordination scheme to global speed control

Published in:

IEEE Transactions on Systems, Man, and Cybernetics, Part B (Cybernetics)  (Volume:27 ,  Issue: 4 )