skip to main content

Title: Distributed Multi-Target Search and Tracking Using a Coordinated Team of Ground and Aerial Robots
Presented at the Workshop on Heterogeneous Multi-Robot Task Allocation and Coordination. The authors recently developed a distributed algorithm to enable a team of homogeneous robots to search for and track an unknown and time-varying number of dynamic targets. This algorithm combined a distributed version of the PHD filter (for multi-target tracking) with Lloyd’s algorithm to drive the motion of the robots. In this paper we extend this previous work to allow a heterogeneous team of groundand aerial robots to perform the search and tracking tasks in a coordinated manner. Both types of robots are equipped with sensors that have a finite field of view and which may receive both false positive and false negative detections. Theaerial robots may vary the size of their sensor field of view (FoV) by changing elevation. This increase in the FoV coincides with a decrease in the accuracy and reliability of the sensor. The ground robots maintain the target tracking information while the aerial robots provide additional sensor coverage. We develop two new distributed algorithms to provide filter updates and to make control decisions in this heterogeneous team. Both algorithms only require robots to communicate with nearby robots and use minimal bandwidth.We demonstrate the efficacy of more » our approach through a series of simulated experiments which show that the heterogeneous teams are able to achieve more accurate tracking in less time than our previous work. « less
Award ID(s):
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Robotics science and systems
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
More Like this
  1. This paper compares different distributed control approaches that enable a team of robots search for and track an unknown number of targets. The robots are equipped with sensors which have limited field of view (FoV) and are required to explore the environment. The team uses a distributed formulation of the Probability Hypothesis Density (PHD) filter to estimate the number and the position of the targets. The resulting target estimate is used to select the future search locations for each robot. This paper compares Lloyd’s algorithm, a traditional method for distributed search, with two typical stochastic optimization methods, Particle Swarm Optimization (PSO) and Simulated Annealing (SA). PSO and SA are traditionally used to find a single global maximum, therefore this paper describes novel formulations of PSO and SA to solve the problem of multi-target tracking. These new methods more effectively trade off between exploration and exploitation. Simulations demonstrate that the use of these stochastic optimization techniques improves coverage of the search space and reduces the error in the target estimates compared to the baseline approach.
  2. This paper proposes a distributed estimation and control algorithm to allow a team of robots to search for and track an unknown number of targets. The number of targets in the area of interest varies over time as targets enter or leave, and there are many sources of sensing uncertainty, including false positive detections, false negative detections, and measurement noise. The robots use a novel distributed Multiple Hypothesis Tracker (MHT) to estimate both the number of targets and the states of each target. A key contribution is a new data association method that reallocates target tracks across the team. The distributed MHT is compared against another distributed multi-target tracker to test its utility for multi-robot, multi-target tracking.
  3. Accurately tracking dynamic targets relies on robots accounting for uncertainties in their own states to share information and maintain safety. The problem becomes even more challenging when there are an unknown and time-varying number of targets in the environment. In this paper we address this problem by introducing four new distributed algorithms that allow large teams of robots to: i) run the prediction and ii) update steps of a distributed recursive Bayesian multitarget tracker, iii) determine the set of local neighbors that must exchange data, and iv) exchange data in a consistent manner. All of these algorithms account for a bounded level of localization uncertainty in the robots by leveraging our recent introduction of the convex uncertainty Voronoi (CUV) diagram, which extends the traditional Voronoi diagram to account for localization uncertainty. The CUV diagram introduces a tessellation over the environment, which we use in this work both to distribute the multi-target tracker and to make control decisions about where to search next. We examine the efficacy of our method via a series of simulations and compare them to our previous work which assumed perfect localization.
  4. We study the problem of searching and tracking a collection of moving targets using a robot with a limited Field-of-View (FoV) sensor. The actual number of targets present in the environment is not known a priori. We propose a search and tracking framework based on the concept of Bayesian Random Finite Sets (RFSs). Specifically, we generalize the Gaussian Mixture Probability Hypothesis Density (GM-PHD) filter which was previously applied for only tracking problems to allow for simultaneous search and tracking. The proposed framework can extract individual target tracks as well as estimate the number and spatial density of the targets. We also show how to use Gaussian Process (GP) regression to extract and predict non-linear target trajectories in this framework. We demonstrate the efficacy of our techniques through representative simulations where we also compare the performance of two active control strategies.
  5. In this paper we derive a new capability for robots to measure relative direction, or Angle-of-Arrival (AOA), to other robots, while operating in non-line-of-sight and unmapped environments, without requiring external infrastructure. We do so by capturing all of the paths that a WiFi signal traverses as it travels from a transmitting to a receiving robot in the team, which we term as an AOA profile. The key intuition behind our approach is to emulate antenna arrays in the air as a robot moves freely in 2D or 3D space. The small differences in the phase and amplitude of WiFi signals are thus processed with knowledge of a robots’ local displacements (often provided via inertial sensors) to obtain the profile, via a method akin to Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR). The main contribution of this work is the development of i) a framework to accommodate arbitrary 2D and 3D trajectories, as well as continuous mobility of both transmitting and receiving robots, while computing AOA profiles between them and ii) an accompanying analysis that provides a lower bound on variance of AOA estimation as a function of robot trajectory geometry that is based on the Cramer Rao Bound and antenna array theory. Thismore »is a critical distinction with previous work on SAR that restricts robot mobility to prescribed motion patterns, does not generalize to the full 3D space, and/or requires transmitting robots to be static during data acquisition periods. In fact, we find that allowing robots to use their full mobility in 3D space while performing SAR, results in more accurate AOA profiles and thus better AOA estimation. We formally characterize this observation as the informativeness of the trajectory; a computable quantity for which we derive a closed form. All theoretical developments are substantiated by extensive simulation and hardware experiments on air/ground robot platforms. Our experimental results bolster our theoretical findings, demonstrating that 3D trajectories provide enhanced and consistent accuracy, with AOA error of less than 10 deg for 95% of trials. We also show that our formulation can be used with an off-the-shelf trajectory estimation sensor (Intel RealSense T265 tracking camera), for estimating the robots’ local displacements, and we provide theoretical as well as empirical results that show the impact of typical trajectory estimation errors on the measured AOA. Finally, we demonstrate the performance of our system on a multi-robot task where a heterogeneous air/ground pair of robots continuously measure AOA profiles over a WiFi link to achieve dynamic rendezvous in an unmapped, 300 square meter environment with occlusions.« less