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Sumeet Singh, Edward Schmerling, Marco Pavone

This paper presents decentralized algorithms for formation control of multiple robots in three dimensions. Specifically, we leverage the mathematical properties of cyclic pursuit along with results from contraction and partial contraction theory to design decentralized control algorithms that ensure global convergence to symmetric formations. We first consider regular polygon formations as a base case, and then extend the results to Johnson solid and other polygonal mesh formations. The algorithms are further augmented to allow control over formation size and avoid collisions with other robots in the formation. The robustness properties of the algorithms are assessed in the presence of bounded additive disturbances and their effect on the quality of the formation is quantified. Finally, we present a general methodology for embedding the control laws on complex dynamical systems, in this case, quadcopters, and validate this approach via simulations and experiments on a fleet of quadcopters.

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Zhijie Zhu, Edward Schmerling, Marco Pavone

In the recent past, several sampling-based algorithms have been proposed to compute trajectories that are collision-free and dynamically-feasible. However, the outputs of such algorithms are notoriously jagged. In this paper, by focusing on robots with car-like dynamics, we present a fast and simple heuristic algorithm, named Convex Elastic Smoothing (CES) algorithm, for trajectory smoothing and speed optimization. The CES algorithm is inspired by earlier work on elastic band planning and iteratively performs shape and speed optimization. The key feature of the algorithm is that both optimization problems can be solved via convex programming, making CES particularly fast. A range of numerical experiments show that the CES algorithm returns high-quality solutions in a matter of a few hundreds of milliseconds and hence appears amenable to a real-time implementation.

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Edward Schmerling, Lucas Janson, Marco Pavone

In this paper we provide a thorough, rigorous theoretical framework to assess optimality guarantees of sampling-based algorithms for drift control systems: systems that, loosely speaking, can not stop instantaneously due to momentum. We exploit this framework to design and analyze a sampling-based algorithm (the Differential Fast Marching Tree algorithm) that is asymptotically optimal, that is, it is guaranteed to converge, as the number of samples increases, to an optimal solution. In addition, our approach allows us to provide concrete bounds on the rate of this convergence. The focus of this paper is on mixed time/control energy cost functions and on linear affine dynamical systems, which encompass a range of models of interest to applications (e.g., double-integrators) and represent a necessary step to design, via successive linearization, sampling-based and provably-correct algorithms for non-linear drift control systems. Our analysis relies on an original perturbation analysis for two-point boundary value problems, which could be of independent interest.

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Joseph A. Starek, Javier V. Gomez, Edward Schmerling, Lucas Janson, Luis Moreno, Marco Pavone

Bi-directional search is a widely used strategy to increase the success and convergence rates of sampling-based motion planning algorithms. Yet, few results are available that merge both bi-directional search and asymptotic optimality into existing optimal planners, such as PRM*, RRT*, and FMT*. The objective of this paper is to fill this gap. Specifically, this paper presents a bi-directional, sampling-based, asymptotically-optimal algorithm named Bi-directional FMT* (BFMT*) that extends the Fast Marching Tree (FMT*) algorithm to bi-directional search while preserving its key properties, chiefly lazy search and asymptotic optimality through convergence in probability. BFMT* performs a two-source, lazy dynamic programming recursion over a set of randomly-drawn samples, correspondingly generating two search trees: one in cost-to-come space from the initial configuration and another in cost-to-go space from the goal configuration. Numerical experiments illustrate the advantages of BFMT* over its unidirectional counterpart, as well as a number of other state-of-the-art planners.

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Lucas Janson, Edward Schmerling, Marco Pavone

This article presents a novel approach, named MCMP (Monte Carlo Motion Planning), to the problem of motion planning under uncertainty, i.e., to the problem of computing a low-cost path that fulfills probabilistic collision avoidance constraints. MCMP estimates the collision probability (CP) of a given path by sampling via Monte Carlo the execution of a reference tracking controller (in this paper we consider LQG). The key algorithmic contribution of this paper is the design of statistical variance-reduction techniques, namely control variates and importance sampling, to make such a sampling procedure amenable to real-time implementation. MCMP applies this CP estimation procedure to motion planning by iteratively (i) computing an (approximately) optimal path for the deterministic version of the problem (here, using the FMT* algorithm), (ii) computing the CP of this path, and (iii) inflating or deflating the obstacles by a common factor depending on whether the CP is higher or lower than a target value. The advantages of MCMP are threefold: (i) asymptotic correctness of CP estimation, as opposed to most current approximations, which, as shown in this paper, can be off by large multiples and hinder the computation of feasible plans; (ii) speed and parallelizability, and (iii) generality, i.e., the approach is applicable to virtually any planning problem provided that a path tracking controller and a notion of distance to obstacles in the configuration space are available. Numerical results illustrate the correctness (in terms of feasibility), efficiency (in terms of path cost), and computational speed of MCMP.

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Edward Schmerling, Lucas Janson, Marco Pavone

Motion planning under differential constraints is a classic problem in robotics. To date, the state of the art is represented by sampling-based techniques, with the Rapidly-exploring Random Tree algorithm as a leading example. Yet, the problem is still open in many aspects, including guarantees on the quality of the obtained solution. In this paper we provide a thorough theoretical framework to assess optimality guarantees of sampling-based algorithms for planning under differential constraints. We exploit this framework to design and analyze two novel sampling-based algorithms that are guaranteed to converge, as the number of samples increases, to an optimal solution (namely, the Differential Probabilistic RoadMap algorithm and the Differential Fast Marching Tree algorithm). Our focus is on driftless control-affine dynamical models, which accurately model a large class of robotic systems. In this paper we use the notion of convergence in probability (as opposed to convergence almost surely): the extra mathematical flexibility of this approach yields convergence rate bounds - a first in the field of optimal sampling-based motion planning under differential constraints. Numerical experiments corroborating our theoretical results are presented and discussed.

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Lucas Janson, Edward Schmerling, Ashley Clark, Marco Pavone

In this paper we present a novel probabilistic sampling-based motion planning algorithm called the Fast Marching Tree algorithm (FMT*). The algorithm is specifically aimed at solving complex motion planning problems in high-dimensional configuration spaces. This algorithm is proven to be asymptotically optimal and is shown to converge to an optimal solution faster than its state-of-the-art counterparts, chiefly PRM* and RRT*. The FMT* algorithm performs a "lazy" dynamic programming recursion on a predetermined number of probabilistically-drawn samples to grow a tree of paths, which moves steadily outward in cost-to-arrive space. As a departure from previous analysis approaches that are based on the notion of almost sure convergence, the FMT* algorithm is analyzed under the notion of convergence in probability: the extra mathematical flexibility of this approach allows for convergence rate bounds--the first in the field of optimal sampling-based motion planning. Specifically, for a certain selection of tuning parameters and configuration spaces, we obtain a convergence rate bound of order $O(n^{-1/d+\rho})$, where $n$ is the number of sampled points, $d$ is the dimension of the configuration space, and $\rho$ is an arbitrarily small constant. We go on to demonstrate asymptotic optimality for a number of variations on FMT*, namely when the configuration space is sampled non-uniformly, when the cost is not arc length, and when connections are made based on the number of nearest neighbors instead of a fixed connection radius. Numerical experiments over a range of dimensions and obstacle configurations confirm our theoretical and heuristic arguments by showing that FMT*, for a given execution time, returns substantially better solutions than either PRM* or RRT*, especially in high-dimensional configuration spaces and in scenarios where collision-checking is expensive.

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