Emergent Bucket Brigading - A simple mechanism for improving performance in multi-robot constrained-space foraging tasks

Esben Ostergaard, Gaurav S. Sukhatme and Maja J. Mataric

This paper is concerned with the multi-robot foraging problem, which has been described as one of the canonical problems for cooperative robotics. In particular, the multi-robot transportation task in constrained space environments is considered. We describe a simple algorithm which produces bucket brigade-like behavior, where the robots "hand off" resources to each other, using only local sensing. The algorithm is tested in five experimental conditions, to empirically evaluate the strengths/weaknesses of the approach, and is found to perform significantly better in constrained space environments than a homogeneous foraging approach. The key results of the described work are: 1) a framework for foraging tasks in general and 2) a simple mechanism that acts locally to produce bucket brigading behavior globally.