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Verifiable control of a swarm of unmanned aerial vehicles

Bennet, Derek J. and McInnes, C.R. (2009) Verifiable control of a swarm of unmanned aerial vehicles. Journal of Aerospace Engineering, 223 (7). pp. 939-953. ISSN 0893-1321

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Abstract

This article considers the distributed control of a swarm of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) investigating autonomous pattern formation and reconfigurability. A behaviour-based approach to formation control is considered with a velocity field control algorithm developed through bifurcating potential fields. This new approach extends previous research into pattern formation using potential field theory by considering the use of bifurcation theory as a means of reconfiguring a swarm pattern through a free parameter change. The advantage of this kind of system is that it is extremely robust to individual failures, is scalpable, and also flexible. The potential field consists of a steering and repulsive term with the bifurcation of the steering potential resulting in a change of the swarm pattern. The repulsive potential ensures collision avoidance and an equally spaced final formation. The stability of the system is demonstrated to ensure that desired behaviours always occur, assuming that at large separation distances the repulsive potential can be neglected through a scale separation that exists between the steering and repulsive potential. The control laws developed are applied to a formation of ten UAVs using a velocity field tracking approach, where it is shown numerically that desired patterns can be formed safely ensuring collision avoidance.