Robotics: Science and Systems XIX

Path Planning for Multiple Tethered Robots Using Topological Braids

Muqing Cao, Kun Cao, Shenghai Yuan, Kangcheng Liu, Yan Loi Wong, Lihua Xie


Path planning for multiple tethered robots is a challenging problem due to the complex interactions among the cables and the possibility of severe entanglements. Previous works on this problem either consider idealistic cable models or provide no guarantee for entanglement-free paths. In this work, we present a new approach to address this problem using the theory of braids. By establishing a topological equivalence between the physical cables and the space-time trajectories of the robots, and identifying particular braid patterns that emerge from the entangled trajectories, we obtain the key finding that all complex entanglements stem from a finite number of interaction patterns between 2 or 3 robots. Hence, non-entanglement can be guaranteed by avoiding these interaction patterns in the trajectories of the robots. Based on this finding, we present a graph search algorithm using the permutation grid to efficiently search for a feasible topology of paths and reject braid patterns that result in an entanglement. We demonstrate that the proposed algorithm can achieve 100% goal-reaching capability without entanglement for up to 10 drones with a slack cable model in a high-fidelity simulation platform. The practicality of the proposed approach is verified using three small tethered UAVs in indoor flight experiments.



    AUTHOR    = {Muqing Cao AND Kun Cao AND Shenghai Yuan AND Kangcheng Liu AND Yan Loi Wong AND Lihua Xie}, 
    TITLE     = {{Path Planning for Multiple Tethered Robots Using Topological Braids}}, 
    BOOKTITLE = {Proceedings of Robotics: Science and Systems}, 
    YEAR      = {2023}, 
    ADDRESS   = {Daegu, Republic of Korea}, 
    MONTH     = {July}, 
    DOI       = {10.15607/RSS.2023.XIX.106}