Reid Simmons and David Apfelbaum, Carnegie Mellon University; Wolfram Burgard, University of Freiburg; Dieter Fox, Carnegie Mellon University; Mark Moors, University of Bonn; Sebastian Thrun and Håkan Younes, Carnegie Mellon University
This paper addresses the problem of exploration and mapping of an unknown environment by multiple robots. The mapping algorithm is an on-line approach to likelihood maximization that uses hill climbing to find maps that are maximally consistent with sensor data and odometry. The exploration algorithm explicitly coordinates the robots, based on estimates of expected information gain at different locations. It tries to maximize overall utility by minimizing the potential for overlap in information gain amongst the various robots. For both the exploration and mapping algorithms, most of the computations are distributed. The techniques have been tested extensively in real-world trials and simulations. The results demonstrate the performance improvements and robustness that accrue from our multi-robot approach to exploration.