Singularity-free guiding vector field for robot navigation

Weijia Yao*, Hector Garcia de Marina, Bohuan Lin, Ming Cao

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)

Abstract

In robot navigation tasks, such as unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) highway traffic monitoring, it is important for a mobile robot to follow a specified desired path. However, most of the existing path-following navigation algorithms cannot guarantee global convergence to desired paths or enable following self-intersected desired paths due to the existence of singular points where navigation algorithms return unreliable or even no solutions. One typical example arises in vector-field guided path-following (VF-PF) navigation algorithms. These algorithms are based on a vector field, and the singular points are exactly where the vector field diminishes. Conventional VF-PF algorithms generate a vector field of the same dimensions as those of the space where the desired path lives. In this article, we show that it is mathematically impossible for conventional VF-PF algorithms to achieve global convergence to desired paths that are self-intersected or even just simple closed (precisely, homeomorphic to the unit circle). Motivated by this new impossibility result, we propose a novel method to transform self-intersected or simple closed desired paths to nonself-intersected and unbounded (precisely, homeomorphic to the real line) counterparts in a higher dimensional space. Corresponding to this new desired path, we construct a singularity-free guiding vector field on a higher dimensional space. The integral curves of this new guiding vector field is thus exploited to enable global convergence to the higher dimensional desired path, and therefore the projection of the integral curves on a lower dimensional subspace converge to the physical (lower dimensional) desired path. Rigorous theoretical analysis is carried out for the theoretical results using dynamical systems theory. In addition, we show both by theoretical analysis and numerical simulations that our proposed method is an extension combining conventional VF-PF algorithms and trajectory tracking algorithms. Finally, to show the practical value of our proposed approach for complex engineering systems, we conduct outdoor experiments with a fixed-wing airplane in windy environment to follow both 2-D and 3-D desired paths.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1206-1221
JournalIEEE Transaction on Robotics
Volume37
Issue number4
Early online date2021
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 5-Aug-2021

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