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This paper investigates the control and localization of a heterogeneous (e.g., different sensing, mechanical, computational capabilities) group of mobile robots. The group considered here has several inexpensive sensor-limited and computationally limited robots, which follow a leader robot in a desired formation over long distances. This situation is similar to a search, demining, or planetary exploration situation where there are several deployable/disposable robots led by a more sophisticated leader. Specifically, the robots in this paper are designed for highway safety applications where they automatically deploy and maneuver safety barrels commonly used to control traffic in highway work zones. Complex sensing and computation are performed by the leader, while the followers perform simple operations under the leader's guidance. This architecture allows followers to be simple, inexpensive, and have minimal sensors. Theoretical and statistical analysis of a tracking-based localization method is provided. A simple follow-the-leader control method is also presented, including a method for changing follower's configuration. Experimental results of localization and follow-the-leader formation-motion are included.
Date of Publication: April 2006