Robotic data mules for collecting data over sparse sensor fields

Deepak Bhadauria, Onur Tekdas, Volkan Isler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

87 Scopus citations


We present a robotic system for collecting data from wireless devices dispersed across a large environment. In such applications, deploying a network of stationary wireless sensors may be infeasible because many relay nodes must be deployed to ensure connectivity. Instead, our system utilizes robots that act as data mules and gather the data from wireless sensor network nodes. We address the problem of planning paths of multiple robots so as to collect the data from all sensors in the shortest time. In this new routing problem, which we call the data gathering problem (DGP), the total download time depends on not only the robots' travel time but also the time to download data from a sensor and the number of sensors assigned to the robot. We start with a special case of DGP in which the robots' motion is restricted to a curve that contains the base station at one end. For this version, we present an optimal algorithm. Next, we study the two-dimensional version and present a constant factor approximation algorithm for DGP on the plane. Finally, we present field experiments in which an autonomous robotic data mule collects data from the nodes of a wireless sensor network deployed over a large field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)388-404
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Field Robotics
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2011


Dive into the research topics of 'Robotic data mules for collecting data over sparse sensor fields'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this