Efficient spatial coverage by a robot swarm based on an ant foraging model and the Lévy distribution

Adam Schroeder, Subramanian Ramakrishnan, Manish Kumar, Brian Trease

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


This work proposes a control law for efficient area coverage and pop-up threat detection by a robot swarm inspired by the dynamical behavior of ant colonies foraging for food. In the first part, performance metrics that evaluate area coverage in terms of characteristics such as rate, completeness and frequency of coverage are developed. Next, the Keller–Segel model for chemotaxis is adapted to develop a virtual-pheromone-based method of area coverage. Sensitivity analyses with respect to the model parameters such as rate of pheromone diffusion, rate of pheromone evaporation, and white noise intensity then identify and establish noise intensity as the most influential parameter in the context of efficient area coverage and establish trends between these different parameters which can be generalized to other pheromone-based systems. In addition, the analyses yield optimal values for the model parameters with respect to the proposed performance metrics. A finite resolution of model parameter values were tested to determine the optimal one. In the second part of the work, the control framework is expanded to investigate the efficacy of non-Brownian search strategies characterized by Lévy flight, a non-Brownian stochastic process which takes variable path lengths from a power-law distribution. It is shown that a control law that incorporates a combination of gradient following and Lévy flight provides superior area coverage and pop-up threat detection by the swarm. The results highlight both the potential benefits of robot swarm design inspired by social insect behavior as well as the interesting possibilities suggested by considerations of non-Brownian noise.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-69
Number of pages31
JournalSwarm Intelligence
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2017


  • Area coverage
  • Chemotaxis
  • Lévy flight
  • Swarm robotics


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