Sensors 2012, 12(4), 4737-4763; doi:10.3390/s120404737

Adapting an Ant Colony Metaphor for Multi-Robot Chemical Plume Tracing

Institute of Robotics and Autonomous Systems, School of Electrical Engineering and Automation, Tianjin University, No. 92, Weijin Road, Tianjin 300072, China
* Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 17 March 2012; in revised form: 26 March 2012 / Accepted: 31 March 2012 / Published: 12 April 2012
(This article belongs to the Section Physical Sensors)
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Abstract: We consider chemical plume tracing (CPT) in time-varying airflow environments using multiple mobile robots. The purpose of CPT is to approach a gas source with a previously unknown location in a given area. Therefore, the CPT could be considered as a dynamic optimization problem in continuous domains. The traditional ant colony optimization (ACO) algorithm has been successfully used for combinatorial optimization problems in discrete domains. To adapt the ant colony metaphor to the multi-robot CPT problem, the two-dimension continuous search area is discretized into grids and the virtual pheromone is updated according to both the gas concentration and wind information. To prevent the adapted ACO algorithm from being prematurely trapped in a local optimum, the upwind surge behavior is adopted by the robots with relatively higher gas concentration in order to explore more areas. The spiral surge (SS) algorithm is also examined for comparison. Experimental results using multiple real robots in two indoor natural ventilated airflow environments show that the proposed CPT method performs better than the SS algorithm. The simulation results for large-scale advection-diffusion plume environments show that the proposed method could also work in outdoor meandering plume environments.
Keywords: ant colony metaphor; chemical plume tracing; time-varying airflow environment; multiple robots; spiral surge

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MDPI and ACS Style

Meng, Q.-H.; Yang, W.-X.; Wang, Y.; Li, F.; Zeng, M. Adapting an Ant Colony Metaphor for Multi-Robot Chemical Plume Tracing. Sensors 2012, 12, 4737-4763.

AMA Style

Meng Q-H, Yang W-X, Wang Y, Li F, Zeng M. Adapting an Ant Colony Metaphor for Multi-Robot Chemical Plume Tracing. Sensors. 2012; 12(4):4737-4763.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Meng, Qing-Hao; Yang, Wei-Xing; Wang, Yang; Li, Fei; Zeng, Ming. 2012. "Adapting an Ant Colony Metaphor for Multi-Robot Chemical Plume Tracing." Sensors 12, no. 4: 4737-4763.

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