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Federation of Intelligent Robotic Explorers Project (FIRE)
This project is no longer active.
Head: Reid Simmons, Stephen Smith, Anthony (Tony) Stentz, and Jeff Schneider
Contact: Reid Simmons
Mailing address:
Carnegie Mellon University
Robotics Institute
5000 Forbes Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Associated lab(s) / group(s):
 Reliable Autonomous Systems Lab
Project Homepage
The FIRE Project, part of the NASA Intelligent Systems Program, aims at investigating and understanding fundamental issues in heterogeneous multi-robot coordination. We focus on domains, such as space exploration, where complex tasks must be performed in environments that are largely inaccessible to humans. The name, FIRE (Federation of Intelligent Robotic Explorers), provides an apt overview of the major themes of this project.

The notion of a federation allows for tremendous lattitude in the exact structure of an organization. A federation can be composed of sub-organizations, or entities, that are heterogeneous, being vastly different in size, structure, capabilities, etc. Each of the sub-organizations or entities retains some degree of autonomy, but also agrees to abide by the general rules that govern the functioning of the federation.

In the FIRE Project, we focus on federations of autonomous mobile robots. We believe that teams of heterogeneous (specialized) robots have advantages over general-purpose robots in being able to accomplish many complex tasks faster, more reliably, and more cheaply. Heterogeneous teams enable the utilization of time- and resource-saving strategies that exploit specialization, providing the potential for high quality results while also maintaining fault tolerence.

Robots in our federation are intelligent, capable of operating with a high degree of autonomy and developing both individual and group-level strategies for accomplishing tasks. The group-level strategies are able to accomodate a wide range cooperation from tightly The nature of the federation is also quite fluid, with teams dynamically forming to perform tasks and desolving when tasks are finished.

The domain of focus in the FIRE Project is space (more specifically Mars) exploration, where human access is extremely difficult and communication limitations with Earth necessitate highly autonomous robots. We envision a scenario where a heterogeneous colony of robots is deployed on Mars. Scientists on Earth communicate high-level task descriptions to the colony (e.g., "find and gather data on several carbonate rocks"). The robots are reponsible for deciding how tasks are to be accomplished, based, among other things, on the tasks' relative priorities. The goal for the robots is to utilize their time, resources, and capabilities efficiently so as to provide the highest possible scientific return on the tasks they are given.