Using multiple agents in uncertainty minimization of ablating target sources
Coogle, Richard A.
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The objective of this research effort is to provide an efficient methodology for a multi-agent robotic system to observe moving targets that are generated from an ablation process. An ablation process is a process where a larger mass is reduced in volume as a result of erosion; this erosion results in smaller, independent masses. An example of such a process is the natural process that gives rise to icebergs, which are generated through an ablation process referred to as ice calving. Ships that operate in polar regions continue to face the threat of floating ice sheets and icebergs generated from the ice ablation process. Although systems have been implemented to track these threats with varying degrees of success, many of these techniques require that the operations are conducted outside of some boundary where the icebergs are known not to drift. Since instances where polar operations must be conducted within such a boundary line do exist (e.g., resource exploration), methods for situational awareness of icebergs for these operations are necessary. In this research, efficacy of these methods is correlated to the initial acquisition time of observing newly ablated targets, as it provides for the ability to enact early countermeasures. To address the research objective, the iceberg tracking problem is defined such that it is re-cast within a class of robotic, multiagent target-observation problems. From this new definition, the primary contributions of this research are obtained: 1) A definition of the iceberg observation problem that extends an existing robotic observation problem to the requirements for the observation of floating ice masses; 2) A method for modeling the activity regions on an ablating source to extract ideal search regions to quickly acquire newly ablated targets; 3) A method for extracting metrics for this model that can be used to assess performance of observation algorithms and perform resource allocation. A robot controller is developed that implements the algorithms that result from these contributions and comparisons are made to existing target acquisition techniques.