Non-Monotone Energy-Aware Information Gathering for Heterogeneous Robot Teams

A recent paper by members of the DCIST alliance considers the problem of planning trajectories for a team of sensor-equipped robots to reduce uncertainty about a dynamical process. Optimizing the trade-off between information gain and energy cost (e.g., control effort, energy expenditure, distance travelled) is desirable but leads to a non-monotone objective function in the set of robot trajectories. Therefore, common multi-robot planning algorithms based on techniques such as coordinate descent lose their performance guarantees. Methods based on local search provide performance guarantees for optimizing a non-monotone submodular function, but require access to all robots’ trajectories, making it not suitable for distributed execution. This work proposes a distributed planning approach based on local search, and shows how to reduce its computation and communication requirements without sacrificing algorithm performance. The team demonstrates the efficacy of their proposed method by coordinating robot teams composed of both ground and aerial vehicles with different sensing and control profiles, and evaluate the algorithm’s performance in two target tracking scenarios. Results show up to 60% communication reduction and 80-92% computation reduction on average when coordinating up to 10 robots, while outperforming the coordinate descent based algorithm in achieving a desirable trade-off between sensing and energy expenditure.

Source: X. Cai, B. Schlotfeldt, K. Khosoussi, N. Atanasov, G.J. Pappas, J.P. How “Non-Monotone Energy-Aware Information Gathering for Heterogeneous Robot Teams”, IEEE Int. Conf. Robot. Autom. (ICRA), ArXiv preprint:, 2021.