Protocol Labs Research
2013-11-28 / Conference paper
Design and implementation of a range-based formation controller for marine robots
ROBOT2013: First Iberian Robotics Conference / 2013.11.28 / Madrid, Spain
Jorge M. Soares , A. Pedro Aguiar, António M. Pascoal, Alcherio Martinoli


There is considerable worldwide interest in the use of groups of autonomous marine vehicles to carry our challenging mission scenarios, of which marine habitat mapping of complex, non-structured environments is a representative example. Relative positioning and formation control becomes mandatory in many of the missions envisioned, which require the concerted operation of multiple marine vehicles carrying distinct, yet complementary sensor suites. However, the constraints placed by the underwater medium make it hard to both communicate and localise the vehicles, even in relation to each other, let alone maintain them in a formation. As a contribution to overcoming some of these problems, this paper deals with the problem of keeping an autonomous marine vehicle in a moving triangular formation with respect to two leader vehicles. Simple feedback laws are derived to drive a controlled vehicle to its intended position in the formation using acoustic ranges obtained to the leading vehicles with no knowledge of the formation path. The paper discusses the implementation of this solution in the MEDUSA class of autonomous marine vehicles operated by IST and describes the results of trials with these vehicles exchanging information and ranges over an acoustic network.