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Controlling Ensembles of Robots via a Supervisory Aerial Robot

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We consider the task of controlling a large team of non-holonomic ground robots with an unmanned aerial vehicle in a decentralized manner that is invariant to the number of ground robots. The central idea is the development of an abstraction for the team of ground robots that allows the aerial platform to control the team without any knowledge of the specificity of individual vehicles. This happens in much the same way as a human operator can control a single robot vehicle by simply commanding the forward and turning velocities without a detailed knowledge of the specifics of the robot. The abstraction includes a gross model of the shape of the formation of the team, and information about the position and orientation of the team in the plane. We derive controllers that allow the team of robots to move in formation while avoiding collisions and respecting the abstraction commanded by the aerial platform. We propose strategies for controlling the physical spread of the ensemble of robots by splitting and merging the team based on distributed techniques. We provide simulation and experimental results using a team of indoor mobile robots and a three-dimensional, cable-controlled, parallel robot which serves as our indoor unmanned aerial platform.
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Keywords: AIR– DECENTRALIZED CONTROL; EXPERIMENTAL ROBOTICS; FORMATION CONTROL; GROUND COORDINATION; MULTI-ROBOT SYSTEMS

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: GPASP Laboratory, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6228, USA

Publication date: 2008-10-01

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