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Stable social foraging swarms in a noisy environment

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2 Author(s)
Yanfei Liu ; Dept. of Electr. Eng., Ohio State Univ., Columbus, OH, USA ; Passino, K.M.

Bacteria, bees, and birds often work together in groups to find food. A group of robots can be designed to coordinate their activities to search for and collect objects. Networked cooperative uninhabited autonomous vehicles are being developed for commercial and military applications. Suppose that we refer to all such groups of entities as "social foraging swarms". In order for such multiagent systems to succeed it is often critical that they can both maintain cohesive behaviors and appropriately respond to environmental stimuli (e.g., by optimizing the acquisition of nutrients in foraging for food). In this paper, we characterize swarm cohesiveness as a stability property and use a Lyapunov approach to develop conditions under which local agent actions will lead to cohesive foraging even in the presence of "noise" characterized by uncertainty on sensing other agent's position and velocity, and in sensing nutrients that each agent is foraging for. The results quantify earlier claims that social foraging is in a certain sense superior to individual foraging when noise is present, and provide clear connections between local agent-agent interactions and emergent group behavior. Moreover, the simulations show that very complicated but orderly group behaviors, reminiscent of those seen in biology, emerge in the presence of noise.

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Automatic Control, IEEE Transactions on  (Volume:49 ,  Issue: 1 )