Pierson, Alyssa. (Boston University), “Analysis of multi-agent systems under varying degrees of trust, cooperation, and competition”

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Pierson, Alyssa. (Boston University), “Analysis of multi-agent systems under varying degrees of trust, cooperation, and competition”

Pierson, Alyssa. (Boston University), “Analysis of multi-agent systems under varying degrees of trust, cooperation, and competition” (2017) Advisor: Schwager, Mac

Multi-agent systems rely heavily on coordination and cooperation to achieve a variety of tasks. It is often assumed that these agents will be fully cooperative, or have reliable and equal performance among group members. Instead, we consider cooperation as a spectrum of possible interactions, ranging from performance variations within the group to adversarial agents. This thesis examines several scenarios where cooperation and performance are not guaranteed. Potential applications include sensor coverage, emergency response, wildlife management, tracking, and surveillance. We use geometric methods, such as Voronoi tessellations, for design insight and Lyapunov-based stability theory to analyze our proposed controllers. Performance is verified through simulations and experiments on a variety of ground and aerial robotic platforms. First, the authors consider the problem of Voronoi-based coverage control, where a group of robots must spread out over an environment to provide coverage. Our approach adapts online to sensing and actuation performance variations with the group. The robots have no prior knowledge of their relative performance, and in a distributed fashion, compensate by assigning weaker robots a smaller portion of the environment. Next, the authors consider the problem of multi-agent herding, akin to shepherding. Here, a group of dog-like robots must drive a herd of non-cooperative sheep-like agents around the environment. Our key insight in designing the control laws for the herders is to enforce geometrical relationships that allow for the combined system dynamics to reduce to a single nonholonomic vehicle. They also investigate the cooperative pursuit of an evader by a group of quadrotors in an environment with no-fly zones. While the pursuers cannot enter the no-fly zones, the evader moves freely through the zones to avoid capture. Using tools for Voronoi-based coverage control, the authors provide an algorithm to distribute the pursuers around the zone's boundary and minimize capture time once the evader emerges. Finally, the authors present an algorithm for the guaranteed capture of multiple evaders by one or more pursuers in a bounded, convex environment. The pursuers utilize properties of the evader's Voronoi cell to choose a control strategy that minimizes the safe-reachable area of the evader, which in turn leads to the evader's capture.

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