Hale Receives ONR Funding for Reactive Swarm Control Research

Dr. Matthew Hale, assistant professor in the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at the University of Florida, recently received funding from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) for his project “Reactive Swarm Control for Dynamic Environments.”

Swarm robotics is an approach to the coordination of multiple autonomous robots as a system which consists of a large number of units, controlled by minimal human intervention.

This project will develop novel decentralized feedback optimization strategies that use an online optimization algorithm as a controller to maneuver swarms in real time. This methodology will eliminate the need to predict future conditions, which typically cannot be done in unknown and adversarial environments. This project will explore the interactions between the flow of information and control performance, and it will conduct experiments in an outdoor testbed to validate these developments under realistic conditions.

“Indoors, we can first execute all computations to plan a trajectory, then execute it. This simplifies our analysis because it decouples computations from control decisions, though this type of pre-planning may not work outside the laboratory,” Hale said. “For example, when outdoors, the unexpected movement of an obstacle can make a pre-planned trajectory infeasible. What results is a need to conduct computations on the fly and in real time in order to execute movement strategies that are reactive rather than anticipatory. Thus, we expect computations and control decisions to be interleaved in time.”

When extended to entire swarms of autonomous systems, individual agents must communicate to coordinate their activities, and thus computations, communications, and control decisions can all be interleaved.

Hale directs the Control, Optimization, and Robotics Engineering (CORE) Lab at UF. His research focuses on areas of control and optimization, with a strong emphasis on multi-agent systems and applications to robotics.