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Guiding a Robot Flock via Informed Robots

Celikkanat, Hande
Turgut, Ali Emre
Şahin, Erol
In this paper, we study how and to what extent a self-organized mobile robot flock can be guided to move in a desired direction by informing some of the individuals within the flock. Specifically, we extend a flocking behavior that was shown to maneuver a swarm of mobile robots as a cohesive group in free space avoiding obstacles in its path. In its original form, this behavior does not have a preferred direction and the flock would wander aimlessly in the environment. In this study, we extend the flocking behavior by "informing" some of the individuals about the desired direction that we wish the swarm to move. The informed robots do not signal that they are "informed" (a.k.a. unacknowledged leadership) and instead guide the rest of the swarm by their tendency to move in the desired direction. Through experimental results obtained from physical and simulated robots we show that the self-organized flocking of a swarm of robots can be effectively guided by a minority of informed robots within the flock. In our study, we use two metrics to measure the accuracy of the flock in following the desired direction, and the ability to stay cohesive meanwhile. Using these metrics, we show that the proposed behavior is scalable with respect to the flock's size, and that the accuracy of guidance increases with 1) the "stubbornness" of the informed robots to align with the preferred direction, and 2) the ratio of the number of informed robots over the whole flock size.