From Fireflies to Fault Tolerant
Swarms of Robots

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One of the essential benefits of multi-robot systems is redundancy. In case one robot breaks down, another robot can take steps to repair the failed robot or take over the failed robot's task. Although fault tolerance and robustness to individual failures have often been central arguments in favor of multi-robot systems, few studies have been dedicated to the subject. In this study, we take inspiration from the synchronized flashing behavior observed in some species of fireflies. We derive a completely distributed algorithm to detect non-operational individuals in a multi-robot system. Each robot flashes by lighting up its on-board LEDs and neighboring robots are driven to flash in synchrony. Since robots that are suffering catastrophic failures do not flash periodically, they can be detected by operational robots. We explore the performance of the proposed algorithm both on a real world multi-robot system and in simulation. We show that failed robots are detected correctly and in a timely manner, and we show that a system of robots with simulated self-repair capabilities can survive relatively high failure rates.     


Download video of examples and experiments [5m27s, MPEG1, 160 MB]


A paper on this study has been submitted to the IEEE Transactions on Evolutionary Computation for a special issue on swarm intelligence.



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This is the end - now go program a robot or a hundred...