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In this paper, we provide a theoretical framework for controlling graph connectivity in mobile robot networks. We discuss proximity-based communication models composed of disk-based or uniformly-fading-signal-strength communication links. A graph-theoretic definition of connectivity is provided, as well as an equivalent definition based on algebraic graph theory, which employs the adjacency and Laplacian matrices of the graph and their spectral properties. Based on these results, we discuss centralized and distributed algorithms to maintain, increase, and control connectivity in mobile robot networks. The various approaches discussed in this paper range from convex optimization and subgradient-descent algorithms, for the maximization of the algebraic connectivity of the network, to potential fields and hybrid systems that maintain communication links or control the network topology in a least restrictive manner. Common to these approaches is the use of mobility to control the topology of the underlying communication network. We discuss applications of connectivity control to multirobot rendezvous, flocking and formation control, where so far, network connectivity has been considered an assumption.
Date of Publication: Sept. 2011