|Effective Cooperation and Scalability in Mobile Robot Teams for Automatic Patrolling of Infrastructures|
Seminar by David Portugal (preparation for Ph.D. defense)
(Supervisor: Prof. Rui P. Rocha)
Synopsis: In this thesis, teams of mobile robots are deployed in indoor scenarios to cooperatively perform patrolling missions, representing an effort to bring robots closer to humans and assist them in monotonous or repetitive tasks, such as supervising and monitoring indoor infrastructures or simply cooperatively cleaning floors. The team of robots should be able to sense the environment, localize and navigate autonomously between way points while avoiding obstacles, incorporate any number of robots, communicate actions in a distributed way and being robust not only to agent failures but also communication failures, so as to effectively coordinate to achieve optimal collective performance. The referred capabilities are an evidence that such systems can only prove their reliability if robots are endowed with intelligence and autonomy. Patrolling units have the tools for intelligent decision-making, according to the information of the mission, the environment and teammates' actions. Distributed coordination architectures are studied and models for multi-robot patrol with special focus on real-world application are presented. Furthermore, interference between autonomous agents is explicitly dealt with, and the approaches are shown to scale to large teams of robots. Additionally, the robustness to agent and communication failures is demonstrated, as well as the flexibility of the models proposed. All methods developed in this thesis are tested and corroborated by experimental results, showing the usefulness of employing cooperative teams of robots in real-world environments and the potential for similar systems to emerge in our society.