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We consider search and rescue applications in which heterogeneous groups of agents (humans, robots, static and mobile sensors) enter an unknown building and disperse while following gradients in temperature and concentration of toxins, and looking for immobile humans. The agents deploy the static sensors and maintain line of sight visibility and communication connectivity whenever possible. Since different agents have different sensors and therefore different pieces of information, communication is necessary for tasking the network, sharing information, and for control.
An ad-hoc network is formed by a group of mobile hosts upon a wireless local network interface. It is a temporary network formed without the aid of any established infrastructure or centralized administration. A sensor network consists of a collection of sensors and distributed over some area that form an ad-hoc network. Our heterogeneous teams of agents (sensors, robots, and humans) constitute distributed adaptive sensor networks and are well-suited for tasks in extreme environments, especially when the environmental model and the task specifications are uncertain and the system has to adapt to it. Applications of this work cover search and rescue for first responders, monitoring and surveillance, and infrastructure protection.
We combine networking, sensing, and control to control the flow of information in search and rescue in unknown environments. Specifically, this research examines (1) localization in an environment with no infrastructure such as a burning building (for both sensors and robots) (2) information flow across a sensor network that can localize on the fly for delivering the most relevant and current information to its consumer, maintaining current maps, and automating localization; (3) using feedback from the sensor network to control the autonomous robots for placing sensors, collecting data from sensors, and locating targets; and (4) delivering the information gathered from the sensor network (integrated as a global picture) to human users. The paper will detail our technical results in these 4 areas and describe an integrated experiment for navigation in burning buildings.
Date Posted: 09 November 2005