An Experimental Study in Wireless Connectivity Maintenance Using up to 40 Robots Coordinated by an Institutional Robotics Approach
This work is developed in the framework of Institutional Robotics (IR), an approach to cooperative distributed robotic systems that draws inspiration from the social sciences. We consider a case study concerned with a swarm of simple robots which has to maintain wireless connectivity and a certain degree of spatial compactness. Robots have local, bounded communication capabilities and have to execute the task (running an IR controller) using exclusively as information their current number of wireless connections to neighbors. For the very same case study, we previously introduced an IR-based macroscopic model for the behavior of a large number of robots, validated using a submicroscopic model implemented through a realistic simulator. In this work, we go a step further and validate our submicroscopic model with real world experiments, duplicating accurately the conditions used, including a large number of robots and noisy communication channels. The main conclusions of this paper are two-fold. First, the IR approach was able to maintain the wireless connectivity of a swarm of 40 real, resource-constrained robots. This speaks in favor of the robustness and scalability of such approach. Second, the submicroscopic model implemented is faithfully capturing the reality and can be used to further optimize the performances of distributed control strategies using an IR approach.