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Sensors (Basel). 2019 Jan 21;19(2). pii: E426. doi: 10.3390/s19020426.

Chemical Source Searching by Controlling a Wheeled Mobile Robot to Follow an Online Planned Route in Outdoor Field Environments.

Li JG1,2, Cao ML3,4, Meng QH5.

Author information

1
Tianjin Key Laboratory of Information Sensing and Intelligent Control, School of Automation and Electrical Engineering, Tianjin University of Technology and Education, Tianjin 300222, China. charles75@163.com.
2
Institute of Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Tianjin Key Laboratory of Process Measurement and Control, School of Electrical and Information Engineering, Tianjin University, Tianjin 300072, China. charles75@163.com.
3
Institute of Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Tianjin Key Laboratory of Process Measurement and Control, School of Electrical and Information Engineering, Tianjin University, Tianjin 300072, China. menglicao@tju.edu.cn.
4
Logistics Engineering College, Shanghai Marinetime University, Shanghai 201306, China. menglicao@tju.edu.cn.
5
Institute of Robotics and Autonomous Systems, Tianjin Key Laboratory of Process Measurement and Control, School of Electrical and Information Engineering, Tianjin University, Tianjin 300072, China. qh_meng@tju.edu.cn.

Abstract

In this paper, we present an estimation-based route planning (ERP) method for chemical source searching using a wheeled mobile robot and validate its effectiveness with outdoor field experiments. The ERP method plans a dynamic route for the robot to follow to search for a chemical source according to time-varying wind and an estimated chemical-patch path (C-PP), where C-PP is the historical trajectory of a chemical patch detected by the robot, and normally different from the chemical plume formed by the spatial distribution of all chemical patches previously released from the source. Owing to the limitations of normal gas sensors and actuation capability of ground mobile robots, it is quite hard for a single robot to directly trace the intermittent and rapidly swinging chemical plume resulting from the frequent and random changes of wind speed and direction in outdoor field environments. In these circumstances, tracking the C-PP originating from the chemical source back could help the robot approach the source. The proposed ERP method was tested in two different outdoor fields using a wheeled mobile robot. Experimental results indicate that the robot adapts to the time-varying airflow condition, arriving at the chemical source with an average success rate and approaching effectiveness of about 90% and 0.4~0.6, respectively.

KEYWORDS:

chemical-patch path (C-PP); chemical-source tracing; outdoor field environments; search-route planning; wheeled mobile robot

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