Using virtual pheromones and cameras for dispersing a team of multiple miniature robots

Janice L. Pearce, Bob Powers, Chistopher Hess, Paul E. Rybski, Sascha A. Stoeter, Nikolaos Papanikolopoulos

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


To safely and efficiently guide personnel of search and rescue operations in disaster areas, swift gathering of relevant information such as the locations of victims, must occur. Using the concept of 'repellent virtual pheromones' inspired by insect colony coordination behaviors, miniature robots can be quickly dispersed to survey a disaster site. Assisted by visual servoing, dispersion of the miniature robots can quickly cover an area. An external observer such as another robot or an overhead camera is brought into the control loop to provide each miniature robot estimations of the positions of all of the other near-by robots in the robotic team. These miniature robots can then move away from the other near-by robots on the team, resulting in the robot collective becoming swiftly distributed through the local area. The technique has been simulated with differing pheromone persistence levels and implemented using the miniature Scout robots, developed by the Center for Distributed Robotics at the University of Minnesota, which are well-suited to surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)307-321
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Intelligent and Robotic Systems: Theory and Applications
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2006

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Aknowledgments This material is based upon work supported by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Microsystems Technology Office (Distributed Robotics), ARPA Order No. G155, Program Code No. 8H20, issued by DARPA/CMD under Contract #MDA972-98-C-0008, the Microsoft Corporation, INEEL, and the NSF under grants #CNS-0224363, #CNS-0324864 and #CNS-0480326. We would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments.


  • Dispersion
  • Distributed robotics
  • Miniature robotics
  • Mobile robots


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