Locating Sparse Resources in Unmapped Terrain with a Collective Robotic System Using Exploration Strategies Inspired by Plants

2019-01-03T20:11:49Z (GMT) by Daniel K. Schrader
Wherever we go, we need resources. Finding those resources in unmapped areas is an ever-present challenge. Nature provides many examples of systems that manage to nd the resources they need for growth, despite having little to no information about their environment. Emulating the resource- finding strategies of animals and insects has been, and continues to be, attempted in robotic systems, to varying degrees of success. However, borrowing strategies from plants is much less explored. This dissertation explores an attempt at distilling the resource-hunting methods of plant roots into a collective robotic system.

Utilizing low-power computing and wireless communication, the robots attempt to locate "resources" (radio beacons, in this case) in an unmapped area. They work collectively via extending and branching from each other. The results of this experiment show limited success, with the limitations primarily stemming from the wireless communication. Nonetheless, it is shown that a collective robotic system, emulating plant roots, can feasibly locate resources that display a gradient, with no map of the environment.