Virtual Leaders, Artificial Potentials and Coordinated Control of Groups

Naomi Ehrich Leonard and Edward Fiorelli

Proc. of the 40th IEEE Conference on Decision and Control, Orlando, FL, December 2001, 2968--2973.
We present a framework for coordinated and distributed control of multiple autonomous vehicles using artificial potentials and virtual leaders. Artificial potentials define interaction control forces between neighboring vehicles and are designed to enforce a desired inter-vehicle spacing. A virtual leader is a moving reference point that influences vehicles in its neighborhood by means of additional artificial potentials. Virtual leaders can be used to manipulate group geometry and direct the motion of the group. The approach provides a construction for a Lyapunov function to prove closed-loop stability using the system kinetic energy and the artificial potential energy. Dissipative control terms are included to achieve asymptotic stability. The framework allows for a homogeneous group with no ordering of vehicles; this adds robustness of the group to a single vehicle failure.

(6 pages pdf)
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