Distributed multi-robot formation control in dynamic environments

Javier Alonso-Mora, Eduardo Montijano, Tobias Nägeli, Otmar Hilliges, Mac Schwager, Daniela Rus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)
70 Downloads (Pure)


This paper presents a distributed method for formation control of a homogeneous team of aerial or ground mobile robots navigating in environments with static and dynamic obstacles. Each robot in the team has a finite communication and visibility radius and shares information with its neighbors to coordinate. Our approach leverages both constrained optimization and multi-robot consensus to compute the parameters of the multi-robot formation. This ensures that the robots make progress and avoid collisions with static and moving obstacles. In particular, via distributed consensus, the robots compute (a) the convex hull of the robot positions, (b) the desired direction of movement and (c) a large convex region embedded in the four dimensional position-time free space. The robots then compute, via sequential convex programming, the locally optimal parameters for the formation to remain within the convex neighborhood of the robots. The method allows for reconfiguration. Each robot then navigates towards its assigned position in the target collision-free formation via an individual controller that accounts for its dynamics. This approach is efficient and scalable with the number of robots. We present an extensive evaluation of the communication requirements and verify the method in simulations with up to sixteen quadrotors. Lastly, we present experiments with four real quadrotors flying in formation in an environment with one moving human.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1079-1100
JournalAutonomous Robots
Volume43 (2019)
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2018


  • Collision avoidance
  • Distributed robotics
  • Drones
  • Dynamic environments
  • Formation control
  • Micro air vehicles
  • Multi-robot systems
  • Unmanned aerial vehicles


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