Networked robots with distributed control


Networked robots with distributed control


Networked robot and assembly (sub)systems have a lot of potential in different application domains:

  1. Manufacturing and assembly, for example multiple robots performing tasks on the same work piece concurrently.
  2. Intra-factory logistics, for example a fleet of automated guided vehicles (AGVs) transporting parts in a flexible assembly setting, possible even carrying parts together.
  3. Mapping, surveillance and agricultural applications, for example a fleet of harvesters or a fleet of drones or boats working in a shared workspace.

In the NORDIC project we focus on a more effective deployment of networked robot systems. We will develop new architectural patterns, models, software and algorithms with partially distributed control and sensing schemes. In doing so, we need to overcome the following challenges: high dimensionality (many robots, large environments…), uncertain and dynamic environments, network delays and jitter, possible temporary unavailability of robots or (parts of) the communication network.

The idea behind distributed control approaches is that the overall control problem is divided in several different parts whose execution is assigned to a certain number of local controllers on each robot. Those robots collaborate to fulfill a joint task. Each robot does not have a global vision of the problem but knows the goals/task of its neighbour robots. Depending on the degree of interaction that exists between the local subsystems, the robots need to communicate so that they can coordinate themselves.

Project goals

The project encompasses the following developments:

  • Object-centric task specifications that are designed for distribution over multiple robots, and coordination strategies for the distributed task execution.
  • Control building blocks for partially distributed tasks. Each robot is anticipating not only its own next task to do, but also the other robots' next actions. The appropriate locality of decision making, optimization and situation assessment is determined by a "traffic system" of the application domain.
  • Perception extensions to provide progress measures for a shared, distributed tasks. This includes the "perception" of the progress of inter-robot communication (digital or perception-based).
  • Communication extensions to broadcast policies of symbolic task progress events and to support coordination runtime updates of world models between individual robot control system and any "map/world model" servers. 
  • A software infrastructure that supports the above items, that is able to scale up with the number of agents, and able to cope with uncertain communication.

Throughout the project we will work along one or two development cases to assess and demonstrate the potential of the developed techniques. Potential user group members are furthermore encouraged to provide a small use case scenario.


NORDIC_SBO is a Strategic Basic Research (SBO) project. We are looking for companies to join the User Group and work with us on the valorisation of the project.

Interested? Complete the form below and we will contact you as soon as possible.