, Volume 5, Issue 2, pp 73-96

Self-organized cooperation between robotic swarms

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Abstract

We study self-organized cooperation between heterogeneous robotic swarms. The robots of each swarm play distinct roles based on their different characteristics. We investigate how the use of simple local interactions between the robots of the different swarms can let the swarms cooperate in order to solve complex tasks. We focus on an indoor navigation task, in which we use a swarm of wheeled robots, called foot-bots, and a swarm of flying robots that can attach to the ceiling, called eye-bots. The task of the foot-bots is to move back and forth between a source and a target location. The role of the eye-bots is to guide foot-bots: they choose positions at the ceiling and from there give local directional instructions to foot-bots passing by. To obtain efficient paths for foot-bot navigation, eye-bots need on the one hand to choose good positions and on the other hand learn the right instructions to give. We investigate each of these aspects. Our solution is based on a process of mutual adaptation, in which foot-bots execute instructions given by eye-bots, and eye-bots observe the behavior of foot-bots to adapt their position and the instructions they give. Our approach is inspired by pheromone mediated navigation of ants, as eye-bots serve as stigmergic markers for foot-bot navigation. Through simulation, we show how this system is able to find efficient paths in complex environments, and to display different kinds of complex and scalable self-organized behaviors, such as shortest path finding and automatic traffic spreading.