Journal of Field Robotic, 2012
Edwin Olson, Johannes Strom, Ryan Morton, Andrew Richardson, Pradeep Ranganathan, Robert Goeddel, Mihai Bulic, Jacob Crossman, and Bob Marinier

Abstract - Tasks like search-and-rescue and urban reconnaissance benefit from large numbers of robots working together, but high levels of autonomy are needed in order to reduce operator requirements to practical levels. Reducing the reliance of such systems on human operators presents a number of technical challenges including automatic task allocation, global state and map estimation, robot perception, path planning, communications, and human-robot interfaces. This paper describes our 14-robot team, designed to perform urban reconnaissance missions, that won the MAGIC 2010 competition. This paper describes a variety of autonomous systems which require minimal human effort to control a large number of autonomously exploring robots. Maintaining a consistent global map, essential for autonomous planning and for giving humans situational awareness, required the development of fast loop-closing, map optimization, and communications algorithms. Key to our approach was a decoupled centralized planning architecture that allowed individual robots to execute tasks myopically, but whose behavior was coordinated centrally. In this paper, we will describe technical contributions throughout our system that played a significant role in the performance of our system. We will also present results from our system both from the competition and from subsequent quantitative evaluations, pointing out areas in which the system performed well and where interesting research problems remain.


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