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Wed, December 17, 2014
Distributed robotics refers to the control of, and design methods for, a system of mobile robots that 1) are autonomous, that is, have only sensory inputs---no outside direct commands, 2) have no leader, and 3) are under decentralized control. The subject of distributed robotics burst onto the scene in the late twentieth century and became very popular very quickly. The first problems studied were flocking and rendezvous. The most highly cited IEEE TAC paper in the subject is by Jadbabaie, Lin, and Morse (2003). This lecture gives a classroom-style presentation of the rendezvous problem. It is the most basic coordination task for a network of mobile robots. The robots in the rendezvous problem in the literature are most frequently kinematic points, modeled as simple integrators, dx/dt = u. Of course, a real wheeled robot has dynamics and is nonholonomic, and the first part of the lecture looks at this discrepancy. The second part reviews the solution to the rendezvous problem. The final part of the lecture concerns infinitely many robots. The lecture is aimed at non-experts.