Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2010

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Electrical and Computer Engineering

First Advisor

Soura Dasgupta

Second Advisor

Jon G. Kuhl


This thesis considers the coordinated control of autonomous agents. The agents are modeled as double integrators, one for each Cartesian dimension. The goal is to force the agents to converge to a formation specified by their desired relative positions. To this end a pair of one-step-ahead optimization based control laws are developed.

The control algorithms produce a communication topology that mirrors the geometric formation topology due to the careful choice of the minimized cost functions. Through this equivalence a natural understanding of the relationship between the geometric formation topology and the communication infrastructure is gained. It is shown that the control laws are stable and guarantee convergence for all viable formation topologies. Additionally, velocity constraints can be added to allow the formation to follow fixed or arbitrary time dependent velocities.

Both control algorithms only require local information exchange. As additional agents attach to the formation, only those agents that share position constraints with the joining agents need to adjust their control laws. When redundancy is incorporated into the formation topology, it is possible for the system to survive loss of agents or communication channels. In the event that an agent drops out of the formation, only the agents with position interdependence on the lost agent need to adjust their control laws. Finally, if a communication channel is lost, only the agents that share that communication channel must adjust their control laws.

The first control law falls into the category of distributed control, since it requires either the global information exchange to compute the formation size or an a priori knowledge of the largest possible formation. The algorithm uses the network size to penalize the control input for each formation. When using a priori knowledge, it is shown that additional redundancy not only adds robustness to loss of agents or communication channels, but it also decreases the settling times to the desired formation. Conversely, the overall control strategy suffers from sluggish response when the network is small with respect to the largest possible network. If global information exchange is used, scalability suffers.

The second control law was developed to address the negative aspects of the first. It is a fully decentralized controller, as it does not require global information exchange or any a priori knowledge.


Autonomus Agents, Co-operative Control, Decentralized Control, Fault Tolerance, Optimal Control, Stability


viii, 102 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 100-102).


Copyright 2010 Ryan Orlin Abel