Distributed, Physics-Based Control of Swarms of Vehicles

Abstract

We introduce a framework, called “physicomimetics,” that provides distributed control of large collections of mobile physical agents in sensor networks. The agents sense and react to virtual forces, which are motivated by natural physics laws. Thus, physicomimetics is founded upon solid scientific principles. Furthermore, this framework provides an effective basis for self-organization, fault-tolerance, and self-repair. Three primary factors distinguish our framework from others that are related: an emphasis on minimality (e.g., cost effectiveness of large numbers of agents implies a need for expendable platforms with few sensors), ease of implementation, and run-time efficiency. Examples are shown of how this framework has been applied to construct various regular geometric lattice configurations (distributed sensing grids), as well as dynamic behavior for perimeter defense and surveillance. Analyses are provided that facilitate system understanding and predictability, including both qualitative and quantitative analyses of potential energy and a system phase transition. Physicomimetics has been implemented both in simulation and on a team of seven mobile robots. Specifics of the robotic embodiment are presented in the paper.

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Spears, W.M., Spears, D.F., Hamann, J.C. et al. Distributed, Physics-Based Control of Swarms of Vehicles. Autonomous Robots 17, 137–162 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1023/B:AURO.0000033970.96785.f2

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  • swarm robotics
  • physicomimetics
  • self-organization
  • fault-tolerance
  • predictability
  • formations