Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are becoming increasingly affordable and widely used. A problem of interest is how a team of UAVs can be used for payload transportation, for example, to help provide aid to those in need during a natural disaster (e.g. deliver medical supplies, food, etc.). Having many smaller, simpler vehicles carry a payload as opposed to one larger, more complex vehicle has certain benefits, including: reconfigurability, redundancy, and safety (e.g. in multirotors, the propellers can be much smaller and spin slower than a single large vehicle, which is especially important if humans will be near the system).
As a first step before payload transport, we considered the formation control of a team of UAVs using a cooperative control technique called Continuum Deformation . This is a leader-follower technique that treats agents as particles of a deformable shape. We implemented this protocol in 2D, experimentally as seen below. We assigned three leaders (UAVs 1,2, and 3) to form a triangle to contain two followers (UAVs 4 and 5). Leaders had their desired trajectories explicitly planned, but followers obtained their desired trajectories based on their neighbors and communication weights. Local deviation bounds of UAVs were used to set limits on the deformation of the shape as a whole in order to guarantee inter-agent collision avoidance and containment within the triangle .
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