Swarm Foraging Under Communication and Vision Uncertainties

Simon O. Obute, Philip Kilby, Mehmet R. Dogar, Jordan H. Boyle*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Swarm foraging is a common test case application for multi-robot systems. In this paper RepAtt algorithm is used for improving coordination of a robot swarm by selectively broadcasting repulsion and attraction signals. This is a chemotaxis-inspired search behaviour where robots use the temporal gradients of these signals to navigate towards more advantageous areas. Hardware experiments were used to model and validate realistic, noisy sound communication and vision system. We then show through extensive simulation studies that RepAtt significantly improves swarm foraging time and robot efficiency under realistic communication and vision models. Note to Practitioners - This research developed a swarm foraging algorithm that takes into consideration the vision and communication sensing noise levels faced by robots in real world applications. The algorithm, known as RepAtt, was developed with the aim of emphasizing algorithmic simplicity and limiting the hardware requirements for the robots in the swarm. In this paper, we have focused on the problem of deploying swarm robots to forage litter in an environment such as a park. The communication model of the robots was based on the physics of sound, while their vision system was modelled using experiments with deep neural networks based object detectors. The results show that the RepAtt algorithm is robust to different distributions of targets (or litter) in the search space, exhibits good swarm efficiency with changes in swarm population and is robust to noise in its communication and vision systems. Apart from the RepAtt algorithm, other contributions made by this research include modelling of robot vision system to aid extensive study of the impact of communication and vision noise on swarm coordination. This will be relevant for extensive testing and validation before deployment to swarm robots hardware. The sound communication used in this research limits the kinds of environment the robots can be deployed in. Echoes within an enclosed environment and bandwidth limitation for communication frequency and public disturbance due to sound emitted by the robots can all contribute to this limitation. Thus, this research can be improved by investing in the development of a communication technology with similar physics. Other areas of improvement include adopting better obstacle avoidance algorithms and implementing suitable manipulators for handling litter objects. The algorithm can be extended to make it applicable for solving other problems such as search and rescue operations where foraging targets could be disaster survivors; demining and hazardous waste cleanup, where targets are the mines or waste material; and planetary exploration, where targets could be interesting features of the planets are the targets searched for by the robots.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1446-1457
Number of pages12
JournalIEEE Transactions on Automation Science and Engineering
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • bioinspired robotics
  • chemotaxis
  • multi-robot systems
  • Swarm foraging


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