Autonomous Robots

, Volume 43, Issue 3, pp 589–610 | Cite as

Attractor dynamics approach to joint transportation by autonomous robots: theory, implementation and validation on the factory floor

  • Toni Machado
  • Tiago Malheiro
  • Sérgio Monteiro
  • Wolfram Erlhagen
  • Estela BichoEmail author


This paper shows how non-linear attractor dynamics can be used to control teams of two autonomous mobile robots that coordinate their motion in order to transport large payloads in unknown environments, which might change over time and may include narrow passages, corners and sharp U-turns. Each robot generates its collision-free motion online as the sensed information changes. The control architecture for each robot is formalized as a non-linear dynamical system, where by design attractor states, i.e. asymptotically stable states, dominate and evolve over time. Implementation details are provided, and it is further shown that odometry or calibration errors are of no significance. Results demonstrate flexible and stable behavior in different circumstances: when the payload is of different sizes; when the layout of the environment changes from one run to another; when the environment is dynamic—e.g. following moving targets and avoiding moving obstacles; and when abrupt disturbances challenge team behavior during the execution of the joint transportation task.


Joint transportation Autonomous robots Mobile robots Obstacle avoidance Unknown environments Attractor dynamics 



This work was supported by FCT—Fundação para a Ciência e Tecnologia within the scope of the Project PEst-UID/CEC/00319/2013 and by the Ph.D. Grants SFRH/BD/38885/2007 and SFRH/BPD/71874/2010, as well as funding from FP6-IST2 EU-IP Project JAST (Proj. Nr. 003747). We would like to thank the anonymous reviewers, whose comments have contributed to improve the paper.

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 4 (mp4 7444 KB)

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Industrial ElectronicsUniversity of MinhoGuimaraesPortugal
  2. 2.Department of Mathematics and ApplicationsUniversity of MinhoGuimaraesPortugal

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