Mixed-Integer Linear Programming Models for Multi-Robot Non-Adversarial Search

Beatriz A. Asfora, Jacopo Banfi, Mark Campbell

In this letter, we consider the Multi-Robot Efficient Search Path Planning (MESPP) problem, where a team of robots is deployed in a graph-represented environment to capture a moving target within a given deadline. We prove this problem to be NP-hard, and present the first set of Mixed-Integer Linear Programming (MILP) models to tackle the MESPP problem. Our models are the first to encompass multiple searchers, arbitrary capture ranges, and false negatives simultaneously. While state-of-the-art algorithms for MESPP are based on simple path enumeration, the adoption of MILP as a planning paradigm allows to leverage the powerful techniques of modern solvers, yielding better computational performance and, as a consequence, longer planning horizons. The models are designed for computing optimal solutions offline, but can be easily adapted for a distributed online approach. Our simulations show that it is possible to achieve 98% decrease in computational time relative to the previous state-of-the-art. We also show that the distributed approach performs nearly as well as the centralized, within 6% in the settings studied in this letter, with the advantage of requiring significant less time - an important consideration in practical search missions.

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