Autonomous Robots

, Volume 38, Issue 4, pp 439–457 | Cite as

Spatially targeted communication in decentralized multirobot systems

  • Nithin Mathews
  • Gabriele Valentini
  • Anders Lyhne Christensen
  • Rehan O’Grady
  • Arne Brutschy
  • Marco Dorigo


Spatially targeted communication (STC) allows a message sender to choose message recipients based on their location in space. Currently, STC in multirobot systems is limited to centralized systems. In this paper, we propose a novel communication protocol that enables STC in decentralized multirobot systems. The proposed protocol dispenses with the many aspects that underpin previous approaches, including external tracking infrastructure, a priori knowledge, global information, dedicated communication devices or unique robot IDs. We show how off-the-shelf hardware components such as cameras and LEDs can be used to establish ad-hoc STC links between robots. We present a Markov chain model for each of the two constituent parts of our proposed protocol and we show, using both model-based analysis and experimentation, that the proposed protocol is highly scalable. We also present the results of extensive experiments carried out on an autonomous, heterogeneous multirobot system composed of one aerial robot and numerous ground-based robots. Finally, two real world application scenarios are presented in which we show how spatial coordination can be achieved in a decentralized multirobot system through STC.


Decentralized multirobot systems Robot swarms Air-ground robot teams Spatial coordination Inter-robot communication 



This work was partially supported by the European Research Council through the ERC Advanced Grant “E-SWARM: Engineering Swarm Intelligence Systems” (Contract 246939). Nithin Mathews acknowledges support from Wallonia-Brussels-International (WBI) through a Scholarship for Excellence Grant. Anders Lyhne Christensen acknowledges support from Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia (FCT) through the Grants PEst-OE/EEI/LA0008/2013 and EXPL/EEI-AUT/0329/2013. Rehan O’Grady, Arne Brutschy, and Marco Dorigo acknowledge support from the Fund for Scientific Research F.R.S.–FNRS of Belgium’s French Community, of which they are a postdoctoral researcher, a research fellow, and a research director respectively.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nithin Mathews
    • 1
  • Gabriele Valentini
    • 1
  • Anders Lyhne Christensen
    • 2
  • Rehan O’Grady
    • 1
  • Arne Brutschy
    • 1
  • Marco Dorigo
    • 1
  1. 1.IRIDIA-CoDEUniversité Libre de BruxellesBrusselsBelgium
  2. 2.Instituto de TelecomunicaçõesInstituto Universitário de Lisboa (ISCTE-IUL)LisboaPortugal

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