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Title: Coordinated search with unmanned aerial vehicle teams
Author: Ward, Paul A.
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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Advances in mobile robot technology allow an increasing variety of applications to be imagined, including: search and rescue, exploration of unknown areas and working with hazardous materials. State of the art robots are able to behave autonomously and without direct human control, using on-board devices to perceive, navigate and reason about the world. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) are particularly well suited to performing advanced sensing tasks by moving rapidly through the environment irrespective of the terrain. Deploying groups of mobile robots offers advantages, such as robustness to individual failures and a reduction in task completion time. However, to operate efficiently these teams require specific approaches to enable the individual agents to cooperate. This thesis proposes coordinated approaches to search scenarios for teams of UAVs. The primary application considered is Wilderness Search and Rescue (WiSaR), although the techniques developed are applicable elsewhere. A novel frontier-based search approach is developed for rotor-craft UAVs, taking advantage of available terrain information to minimise altitude changes during flight. This is accompanied by a lightweight coordination mechanism to enable cooperative behaviour with minimal additional overhead. The concept of a team rendezvous is introduced, at which all team members attend to exchange data. This also provides an ideal opportunity to create a comprehensive team solution to relay newly gathered data to a base station. Furthermore, the delay between sensing and the acquired data becoming available to mission commanders is analysed and a technique proposed for adapting the team to meet a latency requirement. These approaches are evaluated and characterised experimentally through simulation. Coordinated frontier search is shown to outperform greedy walk methods, reducing redundant sensing coverage using only a minimal coordination protocol. Combining the search, rendezvous and relay techniques provides a holistic approach to the deployment of UAV teams, meeting mission objectives without extensive pre-configuration.
Supervisor: Cameron, Stephen Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Software engineering ; Computing ; Applications and algorithms ; Robotics ; unmanned aerial vehicles ; robotic search ; search and rescue ; robot teams ; multi-robot systems ; multi-robot coordination