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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Bacterium-Inspired Robots for Environmental Monitoring


Locating gradient sources and tracking them over time has important applications to environmental monitoring and studies of the ecosystem. We present an approach, inspired by bacterial chemotaxis, for robots to navigate to sources using gradient measurements and a simple actuation strategy (biasing a random walk). Extensive simulations show the efficacy of the approach in varied conditions including multiple sources, dissipative sources, and noisy sensors and actuators. We also show how such an approach could be used for boundary finding. We validate our approach by testing it on a small robot (the robomote) in a phototaxis experiment. A comparison of our approach with gradient descent shows that while gradient descent is faster, our approach is better suited for boundary coverage, and performs better in the presence of multiple and dissipative sources.

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