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Autonomous and semi-autonomous mobile multirobot systems require a wireless communication network in order to communicate with each other and collaboratively accomplish a given task. A multihop communications network that is self-forming, self-healing, and self-organizing is ideally suited for such mobile robot systems that exist in unpredictable and constantly changing environments. However, since every node in a multihop (or ad hoc) network is responsible for forwarding packets to other nodes, the failure of a critical node can result in a network partition. Hence, it is ideal to have an ad hoc network configuration that can tolerate temporary failures while allowing recovery. Since movement of the robot nodes is controllable, it is possible to achieve such fault-tolerant configurations by moving a subset of robots to new locations. In this article we propose a few simple algorithms for achieving the baseline graph theoretic metric of tolerance to node failures, namely, biconnectivity. We formulate an optimization problem for the creation of a movement plan while minimizing the total distance moved by the robots. For one-dimensional networks, we show that the problem of achieving a biconnected network topology can be formulated as a linear program; the latter lends itself to an optimal polynomial time solution. For two-dimensional networks the problem is much harder, and we propose efficient heuristic approaches for achieving biconnectivity. We compare the performance of the proposed algorithms with each other with respect to the total distance moved metric using simulations.
Date of Publication: July-Aug. 2004