Performance bounds on spatial coverage tasks by stochastic robotic swarms

Fangbo Zhang, Andrea L. Bertozzi, Karthik Elamvazhuthi, Spring Berman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


This paper presents a novel procedure for computing parameters of a robotic swarm that guarantee coverage performance by the swarm within a specified error from a target spatial distribution. The main contribution of this paper is the analysis of the dependence of this error on two key parameters: The number of robots in the swarm and the robot sensing radius. The robots cannot localize or communicate with one another, and they exhibit stochasticity in their motion and task-switching policies. We model the population dynamics of the swarm as an advection-diffusion-reaction partial differential equation (PDE) with time-dependent advection and reaction terms. We derive rigorous bounds on the discrepancies between the target distribution and the coverage achieved by individual-based and PDE models of the swarm. We use these bounds to select the swarm size that will achieve coverage performance within a given error and the corresponding robot sensing radius that will minimize this error. We also apply the optimal control approach from our prior work in [13] to compute the robots' velocity field and task-switching rates. We validate our procedure through simulations of a scenario, in which a robotic swarm must achieve a specified density of pollination activity over a crop field.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1473-1488
Number of pages16
JournalIEEE Transactions on Automatic Control
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2018


  • Advection-diffusion-reaction (ADR) partial differential equation (PDE)
  • optimal control
  • stochastic systems
  • swarm robotics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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