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This paper develops a set of methods enabling an information-theoretic distributed control architecture to facilitate search by a mobile sensor network. Given a particular configuration of sensors, this technique exploits the structure of the probability distributions of the target state and of the sensor measurements to control the mobile sensors such that future observations minimize the expected future uncertainty of the target state. The mutual information between the sensors and the target state is computed using a particle filter representation of the posterior probability distribution, making it possible to directly use nonlinear and non-Gaussian target state and sensor models. To make the approach scalable to increasing network sizes, single-node and pairwise-node approximations to the mutual information are derived for general probability density models, with analytically bounded error. The pairwise-node approximation is proven to be a more accurate objective function than the single-node approximation. The mobile sensors are cooperatively controlled using a distributed optimization, yielding coordinated motion of the network. These methods are explored for various sensing modalities, including bearings-only sensing, range-only sensing, and magnetic field sensing, all with potential for search and rescue applications. For each sensing modality, the behavior of this non-parametric method is compared and contrasted with the results of linearized methods, and simulations are performed of a target search using the dynamics of actual vehicles. Monte Carlo results demonstrate that as network size increases, the sensors more quickly localize the target, and the pairwise-node approximation provides superior performance to the single-node approximation. The proposed methods are shown to produce similar results to linearized methods in particular scenarios, yet they capture effects in more general scenarios that are not possible with linearized methods.
Date of Publication: Jan. 2010