Heuristic algorithms for motion planning
Motion planning is an increasingly important field of research. Factory automation is becoming more prevalent and at the same time, production runs are shortening in the name of customisation. With computer controlled equipment becoming cheaper and more modular, setting up near-fully automated production lines is becoming fast and easy. This means that the actual programming of the robots and assembly system is becoming the rate determining step. Automated motion planning is a possible solution to this—but only if it can run fast enough. Many heuristic planners have been created in an attempt to achieve the necessary speeds in off-line (or more ambitiously, on-line) processing. This thesis aims to show that different types of heuristic planners can be designed to take advantage of specialised environments or robot characteristics. To show this, three distinct classes of heuristic planners are put forward for discussion. The first of these classes, addressed in Chapter 2, is of very generic planners which will work in virtually all situations (ie. almost any combination of robot and environment). This generality is obviously useful when lacking more specific domain knowledge. However these methods do suffer performance-wise in comparison with more specialised planners when there are characteristics of the problem which can be targeted. Chapter 3 moves to planners which are designed to specifically address certain peculiarities of the environment. Particular focus is given to environments whose corresponding configuration-spaces contain narrow gaps and passages. Finally Chapter 4 addresses a third class of planners: those which are designed for specific types of robots and movements. The particular focus is on locomotion for legged vehicles. For each of these three classes, some discussion is made of existing planners which can be so characterised. In addition, a novel algorithm is introduced in each as an example for particular consideration.