Performance of a distributed robotic system using shared communications channels

Paul E. Rybski, Sascha A. Stoeter, Maria Gini, Dean F. Hougen, Nikolaos P. Papanikolopoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

76 Scopus citations


We have designed and built a set of miniature robots called Scouts and have developed a distributed software system to control them. This paper addresses the fundamental choices we made in the design of the control software, describes experimental results in a surveillance task, and analyzes the factors that affect robot performance. Space and power limitations on the Scouts severely restrict the computational power of their on-board computers, requiring a proxy-processing scheme in which the robots depend on remote computers for their computing needs. While this allows the robots to be autonomous, the fact that robots' behaviors are executed remotely introduces an additional complication-sensor data and motion commands have to be exchanged using wireless communications channels. Communications channels cannot always be shared, thus requiring the robots to obtain exclusive access to them. We present experimental results on a surveillance task in which multiple robots patrol an area and watch for motion. We discuss how the limited communications bandwidth affects robot performance in accomplishing the task, and analyze how performance depends on the number of robots that share the bandwidth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)713-727
Number of pages15
JournalIEEE Transactions on Robotics and Automation
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2002

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Manuscript received April 3, 2001; revised April 1, 2002. This paper was recommended for publication by Associate Editor T. Arai and Editor S. Hutchinson upon evaluation of the reviewers’ comments. This work was supported in part by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Microsystems Technology Office (Distributed Robotics), under ARPA Order G155, Program Code 8H20, issued by DARPA/CMD under Contract MDA972-98-C-0008, in part by the Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship Program at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, in part by the Microsoft Corporation, and in part by the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory (INEEL). This paper was presented in part at the 7th International Conference on Intelligent Autonomous Systems, Marina del Rey, CA, March 25–27, 2002, and in part at the 1st International Joint Conference on Autonomous Agents and Multiagent Systems, Bologna, Italy, July 15–19, 2002.


  • Distributed software architecture
  • Mobile robots
  • Multiple robots
  • Resource allocation


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