The doctoral dissertations of the former Helsinki University of Technology (TKK) and Aalto University Schools of Technology (CHEM, ELEC, ENG, SCI) published in electronic format are available in the electronic publications archive of Aalto University - Aaltodoc.

Mechatronics Design of a Robot Society – A Case Study of Minimalist Underwater Robots for Distributed Perception and Task Execution

Pekka Appelqvist

Dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Technology to be presented with due permission for public examination and debate in Auditorium T2 at Helsinki University of Technology (Espoo, Finland) on the 17th of November 2000, at 12 o'clock noon.

Dissertation in PDF format (ISBN 951-22-5229-5)   [4328 KB]
Dissertation is also available in print (ISBN 951-22-5166-3)


This thesis describes the mechatronics design of a cooperative multi-robot system, including systems level design, practical implementation, and testing. Two main subjects are integrated in this research work: the generic concept of a Robot Society as an engineering framework to control an autonomously operating distributed multi-robot system, and the constructed prototype society consisting of several sensor/actuator robots for submerged use in a liquid environment.

These novel types of prototype robots, SUBMARs, are targeted for distributed autonomous perception and task execution in the internal, three-dimensional on-line monitoring of various flow-through processes. The Robot Society control architecture implemented into SUBMAR robots supports such features as the autonomous cooperation of the robots, multi-tasking, self-organization, and self- optimization in task execution. The mechatronics design of the robots has followed a minimalist approach, where the structure of the robot is maximally simplified. As a solution to compensate the obvious limitations derived from minimalism, the multiplicity and the cooperation of the robots have been exploited. On a systems level, this produces fault tolerant, flexible, and cost-effective engineering solutions for application.

Altogether over 90 logged experiment runs with physical robots have been completed to elucidate the functioning and reveal the factors affecting the performance of the system. The testing has been performed in a laboratory environment in a special demonstration process. In these experiment series, the searching and destroying of distributed dynamic targets were tested. Furthermore, the meaning of communication in the development of robot consciousness during the mission has also been analyzed.

As a result of the research work and systems development, profound knowledge has been gained and new solutions presented for the required technology for a minimalist mobile robot operating in a liquid process environment. SUBMAR Robot Society forms a technological basis for the development of real-world applications in the future.

Keywords: multi-robot systems, robot society, mechatronics design, underwater robots, minimalist approach, robot cooperation, robot consciousness

This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for Your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.

© 2000 Helsinki University of Technology

Last update 2011-05-26