Distributed control of multi-robot teleoperation: connectivity preservation and authority dispatch




Yang, Yuan

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The frequent occurrences of natural and technological disasters have incurred grave loss of life and damage to property. For mitigating the miserable aftermaths, multi-robot teleoperation systems have been developed and deployed to cooperate with human rescuers in post-earthquake scenarios, and to sample, monitor and clean pollutants in marine environments. With a bidirectional communication channel, human users can deliver commands/requests to guide the motions of the remote robots, and can receive visual/audio feedback to supervise the status of the remote environment, throughout multi-robot teleoperation. Furthermore, the remote robots can send force feedback to human operators to improve their situational awareness and task performance. This way, a closed-loop multi-robot teleoperation system becomes bilateral in which coordinated robots physically interact and exchange energy with human users, and hence needs to be rendered passive for safe human-robot interaction. Beyond guaranteeing closed-loop passivity, the control of a bilateral multi-robot teleoperation system faces two challenging problems: preserving the communication connectivity of the remote robots; and dispatching the teleoperation authority to multiple human users. Because wireless transmission of radio/acoustic signals between the remote robots is constrained by their distances, bilateral multi-robot teleoperation control must coordinate the motions of the remote robots appropriately so as to maintain their communication network connected. Further, multiple human users can send possibly conflicting teleoperation commands to the remote robots, a distributed authority dispatch algorithm is thus needed for the remote robot network to recognize and follow the most urgent user commands at runtime. This thesis develops an energy shaping strategy to preserve the connectivity of the remote robots, and to dispatch control authority over the remote robots to human users, during bilateral multi-robot teleoperation. Chapter 1 introduces the application background of multi-robot teleoperation as well as the state-of-the-art development in related research areas. In Chapter 2, a dynamic interconnection and damping strategy is proposed to reduce and constrain the position error between the local and remote robots to any prescribed bound during bilateral teleoperation. Chapter 3 derives a gradient plus damping control from a bounded potential function and then unifies it into an indirect coupling framework to preserve all communication links of an autonomous multi-robot system with time-varying delays and bounded actuation. On these bases, Chapter 4 develops a dynamic feedforward-feedback passivation strategy to preserve all communication links and thus the connectivity of the tree network of the remote robots while rendering the bilateral multi-robot teleoperation close loop passive. Specifically, by blending the sliding variable in Chapter 2 with the bounded potential function in Chapter 3, the dynamic passivation strategy decomposes the dynamics of the remote robots into a power-preserving interconnection of two subsystems, and regulates the energy behaviour of each subsystem to preserve the tree communication connectivity of the remote robots. To handle time-varying communication delays, the strategy further transforms the communication channels between the local and remote robots into a dynamic controller for passivating bilateral teleoperation. Superior to existing controls, the strategy using a bounded potential function can circumvent numerical instability, reduce noise sensitivity and facilitate future extensions to accommodate robot actuator saturation. On the other side, Chapter 5 designs a distributed and exponentially convergent winners-take-all authority dispatch algorithm that activates the teleoperation of only human users with the most urgent requests in real time. After formulating the problem as a constrained quadratic program, we employ an exact penalty function method to construct a distributed primal-dual dynamical system that can solve the problem at an exponential rate. Because the equilibrium of the system changes with user requests, we then interconnect the dynamical system with physical robot dynamics in a power-preserving way, and passivate closed-loop multi-robot teleoperation using multiple storage functions from a switched system perspective. Finally, Chapter 6 provides some conclusive remarks and two problems regarding connectivity preservation and authority dispatch for future study.



Multi-Robot Systems, Bilateral Teleoperation, Connectivity Preservation, Authority Dispatch