Singularities and global stability of decentralized formations in the plane

M. -A. Belabbas

Formation control is concerned with the design of control laws that stabilize agents at given distances from each other, with the constraint that an agent's dynamics can depend only on a subset of other agents. When the information flow graph of the system, which encodes this dependency, is acyclic, simple control laws are known to globally stabilize the system, save for a set of measure zero of initial conditions. The situation has proven to be more complex when the graph contains cycles; in fact, with the exception of the cyclic formation with three agents, which is stabilized with laws similar to the ones of the acyclic case, very little is known about formations with cycles. Moreover, all of the control laws used in the acyclic case fail at stabilizing more complex cyclic formations. In this paper, we explain why this is the case and show that a large class of planar formations with cycles cannot be globally stabilized, even up to sets of measure zero of initial conditions. The approach rests on relating the information flow to singularities in the dynamics of formations. These singularities are in turn shown to make the existence of stable configurations that do not satisfy the prescribed edge lengths generic.

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