Autonomous Robots

, Volume 42, Issue 8, pp 1669–1689 | Cite as

Distributed system of autonomous buoys for scalable deployment and monitoring of large waterbodies

  • Brandon M. Zoss
  • David Mateo
  • Yoke Kong Kuan
  • Grgur Tokić
  • Mohammadreza Chamanbaz
  • Louis Goh
  • Francesco Vallegra
  • Roland Bouffanais
  • Dick K. P. Yue
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Special Issue on Distributed Robotics: From Fundamentals to Applications


The design, construction, and testing of a large distributed system of novel, small, low-cost, autonomous surface vehicles in the form of self-propelled buoys capable of operating in open waters is reported. We detail the successful testing of collective behaviors of systems with up to 50 buoys, achieving scalable deployment and dynamic monitoring in unstructured environments. This constitutes the largest distributed multi-robot system of its kind reported to date. We confirm the robustness of the system to the loss of multiple units for different collective behaviors such as flocking, navigation, and area coverage. For dynamic area monitoring, we introduce a new metric to quantify coverage effectiveness. Our system exhibits near optimal scalability for fixed target areas and a high degree of flexibility when the shape of the target changes with time. This system demonstrates the potential of distributed multi-robot systems for the pervasive and persistent monitoring of coastal and inland water environments.


Multi-robot system Collective behavior Autonomous surface vehicle Dynamic area coverage Distributed communication 



This work was supported by Grants from the Temasek Lab (TL@SUTD) under a Seed Grant #IGDS S15 01021, a MOE-Tier 1 Grant #SUTDT12015003, and the National Research Foundation Singapore under its Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise programme. The Center for Environmental Sensing and Modeling is an interdisciplinary research group of the Singapore MIT Alliance for Research and Technology.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)CambridgeUSA
  2. 2.Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD)SingaporeSingapore

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