REACTIVE CONTROL FOR MULTI-AGENT ROBOTIC SYSTEMS IN HOSTILE ENVIRONMENTS
ARPA Task #A447 Summary
- Project Summary
- Significant Events
- Presentation Charts
Georgia Institute of Technology
PRINCIPAL INVESTIGATOR: Prof. Ronald C. Arkin
- TEAM MEMBERS / GRADUATE STUDENTS:
- Dr. Jonathan Cameron, Research Scientist
Khaled Ali, Ph.D. Student
Tucker Balch, Ph.D. Student
Douglas MacKenzie, Ph.D. Student
TITLE OF EFFORT:
Reactive Control for Multi-Agent Robotic Systems in Hostile Environments
The application of behavior-based robotics to a team of military
vehicles is being conducted through the development of 3 major
research products: formation control software to enforce spatial
relationships between team members; MissionLab mission
specification software to facilitate straightforward end-user
premission planning capabilities; and team teleautonomy to provide
seamless run-time human commander/robot team guidance.
Our objective is to provide robust coordinated performance for
teams of robotic systems operating in hostile environments through
the use of a flexible reactive control system. Demonstrations are
being conducted, both within our laboratory and in the context of
ARPA's UGV Demo II Program. Test domains are assumed to be
hostile, where individual agents may perish and electronic
countermeasures may be in effect, potentially disrupting
communications between the robots.
- Formation Control:
- Specific behaviors for line, column, wedge, and
diamond formations have been developed for use in military scout
mission by extending our schema-based control paradigm. Various
referencing schemes, including unit-centered and
leader-referenced, are used to establish the basis for the spatial
relationships between vehicles.
- Mission Specification:
- MissionLab is an integrated development
environment for the construction, evaluation, reuse, and control
of multiagent robot control software. Developing a multiagent
robot configuration involves three steps: determining an
appropriate set of skills for each individual agent; translating
these skills into sets of suitable behavioral assemblages; and the
construction of suitable coordination mechanisms to ensure that
the desired assemblages are deployed correctly over the life of
- Team Teleautonomy:
- Two different means by which a human operator
can interact with a team of vehicles are provided: Basic
Teleautonomy where the operator appears to the control system as
another reactive behavior, biasing the team to move in the
direction specified while maintaining all other active behaviors
such as obstacle avoidance; and Advanced Teleautonomy where the
operator is permitted to alter, on the fly, the relative
behavioral composition of the entire robotic team, for example by
making it more aggressive when required by the situation.
Substantial progress was achieved within the last year. Various
formation control behaviors have been developed and tested both in
simulation and within robotic vehicles. A preliminary version of
MissionLab software has been developed and will be subjected to
usability studies in the upcoming year for further
refinement. Basic team teleautonomy has been completed and a
preliminary version of advanced teleautonomy is under development.
Software delivered to Lockheed-Martin for integration into UGV
Demo C includes formation control and basic teleautonomy. Both of
these have been integrated into their system and will be used in
Demo C. MissionLab has been made available to the ARPA UGV Demo II
Community and has been used by the University of Texas at
Arlington to develop and test their sensor pointing algorithms.
- Formation control: Quantitative analysis of formation performance
was undertaken and documented in a conference publication (see
below). Formation behaviors were extended to include
non-holonomic vehicles (e.g., cars and trucks). A rule-based
formation expert was developed to assist military mission planners
in selecting appropriate formations for a given mission.
- MissionLab mission specification software has been released via
Internet to the research community. (See MissionLab.)
A conversion to the ARPA UGV
standard IPT communications package was completed, Two internal
compilers, CDL (configuration description language) and CNL
(configuration network language) were finished and will be
demonstrated at UGV Demo C.
- Team Teleautonomy: Conversion of the schema-based controllers into
a form compatible with the ARPA UGV arbitration system was
completed. Integration of the graphical user interface into the
Hughes STX premission planning software was accomplished. This
software will be shown in a tech demo at Demo C.
- Technology insertion of formation control into Lockheed-Martin's
Demo C vehicles. Integration of formation expert and basic
teleautonomy into Hughes STX premission planning software.
- In preparation for ARPA UGV Demo II (schdeuled for 8/96) Georgia
Tech will make significant improvements in their current software
for control of teams of robotics vehicles, including a more
complete set of formation control software and improved
teleautonomous control by the operator. This will include other
software components such as an upgraded formation expert. The
current early versions of these systems are important to the
success of Demo C (July 1995). It is essential to incorporate the
lessons learned from these initial demonstrations and to produce
improved, more capable, and more robust versions of this software
for inclusion in Demo II. Georgia Tech plans to participate in
Demo II at Fort Hood, Texas.
- The MissionLab system will be continuously developed and improved
and is central to one Ph.D. dissertation. Another release is
planned for 12/95. This version will incorporate advanced mission
specification techniques, robot software configuration tools, and
reusable control software libraries, as well as advanced team
teleautonomous control concepts. Initial versions of many of
these components constitute part of the release of MissionLab
planned for 7/95. The subsequent release in 12/95 will improve and
complete the existing components, adding many new capabilities and
simplifying the duties of the operator and making the system more
powerful and robust.
- Several usability studies will be conducted during FY96 to
evaluate the usefulness of the mission specification tools and the
teleautonomous control concepts and interfaces. In order to
obtain more reliable and helpful feedback, part of these
evaluations will include testing by military personnel and
military students here at Georgia Tech.
- Test some of our ideas on our AM General HMMVW ("Hummer"):
In both ARPA UGV Demo C (7/95) and Demo II (8/96), Georgia Tech
will provide software that is essential to the success of these
important demonstrations. This includes vehicle formation control
software, formation expert software for premission planning, and
teleautonomous control software for simple operator control of
teams of vehicles. This software will be incorporated into the
HMMWV vehicles and operator workstation software by
Lockheed-Martin. Portions of this software has been used by other
groups. For instance, the formation expert has been used by the
researchers at the University of Michigan as part of their
premission planning system. It has also been incorporated into
the Hughes STXmcu operator workstation. Plans for FY96 include
expanding and improving all of these software components to help
make the UGV Demo II systems more capable and robust.
The MissionLab mission specification and configuration software will be
demonstrated as part of a Technical Demo during ARPA UGV Demo C in July 1995.
This demo will involve collaboration of Georgia Tech and the University of
Texas at Arlington (UTA) in a joint demonstration. Note that UTA has already
used MissionLab software to help verify their sensing algorithms for this
joint tech demo. Additional requests to use MissionLab have come from the
Naval Research Laboratories and a joint US/Mexico research effort. The system
is available through the internet (MissionLab).
Plans for the FY96 include releasing improved and extended versions of
DATE PREPARED: June 28, 1995
- Balch, T. and Arkin, R.C., "Motor Schema-based Formation
Control for Multiagent Robot Teams", 1995 International Conference
on Multiagent Systems, San Francisco, CA, pp. 10-16.
- MacKenzie, D., Cameron, J., Arkin, R., "Specification and
Execution of Multiagent Missions", to appear Proc. 1995 Int. Conf.
on Intelligent Robotics and Systems (IROS '95), Pittsburg, PA.
- Arkin, R.C. and Balch, T., "AuRA: Principles and Practice",
submitted to Journal of Experimental and Theoretical Artificial
- Arkin, R.C., "Reactive Robotic Systems", article in Handbook of
Brain Theory and Neural Networks, ed. M. Arbib, MIT Press,
pp. 793-796, 1995.
- Arkin, R.C. and Balch, T., "Communication and Coordination in
Reactive Robotic Teams", to appear in Coordination Theory and
Collaboration Technology, ed. G. Olson, J.B. Smith, and T. Malone,
- Arkin, R.C. and Ali, K., "Integration of Reactive and
Telerobotic Control in Multi-agent Robotic Systems", Proc. Third
International Conference on Simulation of Adaptive Behavior,
(SAB94) [From Animals to Animats], Brighton, England, Aug. 1994,
- MacKenzie, D., Cameron, J., and Arkin, R.C., "Specification and
Execution of Multiagent Missions", Technical Report
GIT-COGSCI-95/02, Georgia Tech, 1994.
- Balch, T. and Arkin, R.C., "Communication in Reactive
Multiagent Robotic Systems", Autonomous Robots, Vol. 1, No. 1,
pp. 27-52, 1994.
The MissionLab system has developed significantly this past year
and will have a new public release (including source code) within
the next few weeks. This system has several components which
address efficient multiagent mission specification, configuration,
and execution. The MissionLab configuration editor allows a
non-expert operator to specify robot missions and automatically
configure and compile multiagent vehicle software. The basis for
this achievement is a better theoretical framework for the
expression of multiagent systems and missions and more effective
ways to reuse previously developed software components. The
MissionLab system can execute a wide range of military scout
missions using simulated or real robotic vehicles simply and
effectively. MissionLab also incorporates tools necessary to
control teams of robotic vehicles moving in formation or under
operator teleautonomous control.
Participation in ARPA UGV Demo C
Software developed under this contract has been incorporated into
the ARPA UGV Demo II program, particularly Demo C which occurs in
July, 1995. Several control components for multi-vehicle motion
have been developed, supplied to Lockheed-Martin, and integrated
into the Hughes STX vehicle control and operator workstation.
Software for maintaining the relative positions of several
vehicles (in other words, their formation) has been integrated and
has proven so successful that it will be featured in several
different demonstrations during UGV Demo C. Basic teleautonomy
software has also been installed and will be demonstrated in two
Tech Demo components during Demo C, allowing the operator to
directly control a team of HMMWV vehicles.
- [07/95] Release version 0.85 of MissionLab.
- [07/95] Participate in UGV Demo C.
- [12/95] Release improved version of MissionLab (v1.0)
- [02/96] Finish full suite of formation control behaviors.
- [05/96] Complete usability studies on teleautonomous system.
- [05/96-08/96] Coordinate with LMC for UGV Demo II demos.
- [08/96] Participate in UGV Demo II.
- [11/96] Final release of MissionLab.
BACKGROUND / HISTORY:
This project resulted from earlier developments in schema-based
reactive control systems developed by Ronald Arkin at Georgia
Tech. In particular, recent work, funded by the National Science
Foundation, in multiagent robotic control serves as the basis for
this research. Reactive control systems have consistently proven
useful in dynamic and hazardous environments as typified by the
- Develop more improved and robust formation behaviors through
innovative spatial strategies.
- Extend conceptual framework of team specification to simplify the
creation and execution of complex missions.
- Expand reuse of software components by extending the library of
software for various robotic skills and behaviors.
- Improve teleautonomous techniques for control of teams of robotic
- Provide robust motion control for teams of robotic vehicles.
PAYOFF: Improved ability to field robotic systems for dangerous
military missions as demonstrated in the ARPA UGV Demo II program.
- Extended mission creation, reuse, and execution capabilities.
PAYOFF: Enhanced ability for a single non-expert operator to
create a mission semi-automatically that controls a team of
- Efficient teleautonomous control of robotic team behavior.
PAYOFF: Improved ability of a non-expert operator to directly
affect the performance of the vehicle team in unpredictable
Controlling and specifying a single robotic agent in a hazardous
environment is a difficult task. Controlling teams of them further
compounds the problem. In order to provide robust coordinated
control, new ways for envisioning a team of robotic agents as a
single unit are applied. These behavioral control and
specification methods provide the basis for all the research
conducted under this contract. By viewing a human operator as
another internal robotic behavior spread throughout many robotic
agents, simpler teleoperation is permitted significantly reducing
- Related Links:
ARPA Real Time Planning and Control Program homepage
MissionLab Home Page
Mobile Robot Laboratory Home Page
College of Computing Home Page
Georgia Tech Home Page
Prof. Ronald C. Arkin
Mobile Robot Laboratory
College of Computing
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, GA 30332-0280
Phone: (404) 894-8209
Fax: (404) 853-0957