Swarm Intelligence

, Volume 13, Issue 1, pp 21–57 | Cite as

Long-term pattern formation and maintenance for battery-powered robots

  • Guannan LiEmail author
  • Ivan Svogor
  • Giovanni BeltrameEmail author


This paper presents a distributed, energy-aware method for the autonomous deployment and maintenance of battery-powered robots within a known or unknown region in 2D space. Our approach does not rely on a global positioning system and therefore allows for applications in GPS-denied environments such as underwater sensing or underground monitoring. After covering a region, our system maintains a formation and uses an arbitrary number of charging stations to prevent robots from fully discharging. Analyzing the topology of the network formed during robot deployment, we generate virtual recharging trees which the robots use to navigate toward a nearby charging station when needed. All robots that leave the formation are replaced by their neighbors, maximizing the effective coverage provided by the system. We demonstrate the capability of our methods using models, a physics-based simulator, and experiments with real robots.


Long-term autonomy Energy-aware Multi-robot teams Graph Battery 



We thank our former laboratory member Carlo Pinciroli, who greatly influenced this work, and interns Christophe Bedard and Nghia Do for their assistance. This research was supported by the NSERC Strategic Partnership Grant 479149-2015.


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Shenyang Institute of AutomationChinese Academy of SciencesShenyangChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Department of Computer and Software EngineeringPolytechnique MontréalMontrealCanada

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