Controlling Teams of Autonomous Mobile Beamformers

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Prof. Athina Petropulu, in collaboration with Prof. Michael M. Zavlanos of Duke University, received support from NSF NeTS for the project "Controlling Teams of Autonomous Mobile Beamformers."

The goal of this research is to develop a new framework to control teams of mobile robots, cooperating in a beamforming fashion, to transmit information between multiple source-destination pairs, while meeting quality-of-service constraints and consuming minimum power. The approach of this project ensures robust communications and longevity in challenging environments, arising during the transmission of high-rate data, such as video or images, or in environments where there is no line-of-sight. It also allows significant performance gains compared to static systems that do not consider mobility.

The intellectual merit of this research lies in the development of a cyber-physical system of mobile beamformers, where the physical space of robot trajectories and velocities constitutes an input to the cyber space of wireless communications, and vice versa.

Integration of the resulting discrete and continuous dynamics and different time scales requires the synthesis of new theoretical results drawing from control theory, wireless networking, distributed optimization, and hybrid control. This cyber-physical system combines the following interrelated objectives: Distributed control of mobile beamformers; Node selection, grouping and motion scheduling; Rich models of the communication space; Platform deployment and validation.

Successful completion of this research will provide these necessary components in facilitating the design of mobile autonomous systems and fostering their adoption. Wide availability of such systems can have a significant societal impact on, e.g., search, rescue and recovery operations, environmental monitoring for homeland security, or surveillance and reconnaissance missions.