The Robot Rendezvous Problem
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Distributed robotics refers to the control of, and design methods for, a system of mobile robots that 1) are autonomous, that is, have only sensory inputs—no outside direct commands, 2) have no leader, and 3) are under decentralized control. The subject of distributed robotics burst onto the scene in the late twentieth century and became very popular very quickly. The first problems studied were flocking and rendezvous. The most highly cited IEEE TAC paper in the subject is by Jadbabaie, Lin, and Morse (2003). This lecture gives a classroom-style presentation of the rendezvous problem. It is the most basic coordination task for a network of mobile robots. The robots in the rendezvous problem in the literature are most frequently kinematic points, modeled as simple integrators, dx/dt = u. Of course, a real wheeled robot has dynamics and is nonholonomic, and the first part of the lecture looks at this discrepancy. The second part reviews the solution to the rendezvous problem. The final part of the lecture concerns infinitely many robots. The lecture is aimed at non-experts.
Bruce Francis obtained his B.A.Sc. and M.Eng. degrees in Mechanical Engineering and his Ph.D. degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Toronto in 1969, 1970, and 1975, respectively. He received a two-year NSERC Postdoctoral Fellowship in 1975. He spent the first year at Berkeley and the second year at Cambridge. He spent 1977-78 at McGill and Concordia, and 1979-81 at Yale University. He returned to Canada in 1981 to the University of Waterloo. Finally, he returned to his alma mater, the University of Toronto, in 1984. He retired in 2011 and is now Emeritus Professor. He received four teaching awards at U of T. He became a Fellow of the IEEE in 1988 and a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Engineering in 2010. He was a co-recipient of two Outstanding Paper Awards for papers appearing in the IEEE Transactions on Automatic Control and a co-recipient (with Doyle, Glover, and Khargonekar) of the 1991 IEEE W.R.G. Baker Prize Award. He held a Japan Society for the Promotion of Science Fellowship in 1989, and gave the Peter Sagirow Seminar at the University of Stuttgart in 2010. He received the Bode Lecture Prize in 2014 and the IEEE Control Systems Award in 2015.