The Robotics Institute

RI | Seminar | March 31, 2006

Robotics Institute Seminar, March 31, 2006
Time and Place | Seminar Abstract | Speaker Biography | Speaker Appointments

Distributed Estimation and Control of Multi-Agent Systems

Kevin Lynch
Laboratory for Intelligent Mechanical Systems
Northwestern University

Time and Place

Mauldin Auditorium (NSH 1305)
Refreshments 3:15 pm
Talk 3:30 pm


We are pursuing a framework for systematic design of emergent behaviors in sensing and communication networks of mobile agents.  The problem is to design a control law to run on each agent, based on sensor and communication input, so that the desired collective behavior emerges.  Example tasks include sensor coverage, formation control, multi-agent pursuer-evader, and other types of self-organization.  The key constraints are that each agent may have significant dynamics and limited sensing, computation, motion, and communication capabilities. The behavior of the system should improve or degrade gracefully as agents are added or deleted; in other words, the approach should be scalable, robust, and require no central controller.

Our approach requires each agent to simultaneously (1) estimate properties of the global behavior of the system and (2) use those estimates in a motion control law.  This suggests a systematic approach of separately designing the estimator and controller, and then ensuring that the coupled system retains desired performance properties.  I will give an example applying this framework to swarm formation control, where the desired formation is described by inertial moments.  Implementing a simple gradient control law on each agent, the coupled estimation and control system is globally convergent to the desired family of formations.

Speaker Biography

Kevin Lynch was a member of Carnegie Mellon's first class of robotics Ph.D. students.  After graduation in 1996 he spent a year as a postdoctoral fellow at the AIST Mechanical Engineering Laboratory in Tsukuba, Japan.  Since 1997 he has been on the faculty of the Mechanical Engineering Department at Northwestern University, where he co-directs the Laboratory for Intelligent Mechanical Systems.  He was the recipient of the IEEE Early Career Award in Robotics and Automation in 2001, and he currently serves as Editor of the IEEE Transactions on Robotics.  He is a co-author of Principles of Robot Motion, MIT Press, along with Howie Choset, George Kantor, and others.  His research interests are in robot motion planning and manipulation, underactuated systems, human-robot interaction, and distributed multi-agent systems.

Speaker Appointments

For appointments, please contact Jean Harpley (

The Robotics Institute is part of the School of Computer Science, Carnegie Mellon University.