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Decentralized progressive shape formation with robot swarms

Abstract

We address the problem of progressively deploying a set of robots to a formation defined as a point cloud, in a decentralized manner. To achieve this, we present an algorithm that transforms a given point cloud into an acyclic directed graph. This graph is used by the control law to allow a swarm of robots to progressively form the target shape based only on local decisions. This means that free robots (i.e., not yet part of the formation) find their location based on the perceived location of the robots already in the formation. We prove that for a 2D shape it is sufficient for a free robot to compute its distance from two robots in the formation to achieve this objective. We validate our method using physics-based simulations and robotic experiments, showing consistent convergence and minimal formation placement error.

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Acknowledgements

We would like to thank the people who provided technical assistance for this work: Vivek Shankar Varadharajan, Cao Yanjun and Chao Chen, Polytechnique Montreal. This work was funded by the NSERC Strategic Partnership Grant No. 479149-2015 and by the NSERC Research Tools and Infrastructure Grant No. 2016-00599. This work is also sponsored by the China Scholarship Council.

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Correspondence to Guannan Li.

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Li, G., St-Onge, D., Pinciroli, C. et al. Decentralized progressive shape formation with robot swarms. Auton Robot 43, 1505–1521 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10514-018-9807-5

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Keywords

  • Swarm robotics
  • Pattern formation
  • Progressive deployment
  • Buzz