A heuristic distributed task allocation method for multi-vehicle multi-task problems and its application to search and rescue scenario

Using distributed task allocation methods for cooperating multivehicle systems is becoming increasingly attractive. However, most effort is placed on various specific experimental work and little has been done to systematically analyze the problem of interest and the existing methods. In this paper, a general scenario description and a system configuration are first presented according to search and rescue scenario. The objective of the problem is then analyzed together with its mathematical formulation extracted from the scenario. Considering the requirement of distributed computing, this paper then proposes a novel heuristic distributed task allocation method for multivehicle multitask assignment problems. The proposed method is simple and effective. It directly aims at optimizing the mathematical objective defined for the problem. A new concept of significance is defined for every task and is measured by the contribution to the local cost generated by a vehicle, which underlies the key idea of the algorithm. The whole algorithm iterates between a task inclusion phase, and a consensus and task removal phase, running concurrently on all the vehicles where local communication exists between them. The former phase is used to include tasks into a vehicle’s task list for optimizing the overall objective, while the latter is to reach consensus on the significance value of tasks for each vehicle and to remove the tasks that have been assigned to other vehicles. Numerical simulations demonstrate that the proposed method is able to provide a conflict-free solution and can achieve outstanding performance in comparison with the consensus-based bundle algorithm.