Distributed task allocation optimisation techniques in multi-agent systems

2018-11-26T09:02:06Z (GMT) by Joanna Turner
A multi-agent system consists of a number of agents, which may include software agents, robots, or even humans, in some application environment. Multi-robot systems are increasingly being employed to complete jobs and missions in various fields including search and rescue, space and underwater exploration, support in healthcare facilities, surveillance and target tracking, product manufacturing, pick-up and delivery, and logistics. Multi-agent task allocation is a complex problem compounded by various constraints such as deadlines, agent capabilities, and communication delays. In high-stake real-time environments, such as rescue missions, it is difficult to predict in advance what the requirements of the mission will be, what resources will be available, and how to optimally employ such resources. Yet, a fast response and speedy execution are critical to the outcome. This thesis proposes distributed optimisation techniques to tackle the following questions: how to maximise the number of assigned tasks in time restricted environments with limited resources; how to reach consensus on an execution plan across many agents, within a reasonable time-frame; and how to maintain robustness and optimality when factors change, e.g. the number of agents changes. Three novel approaches are proposed to address each of these questions. A novel algorithm is proposed to reassign tasks and free resources that allow the completion of more tasks. The introduction of a rank-based system for conflict resolution is shown to reduce the time for the agents to reach consensus while maintaining equal number of allocations. Finally, this thesis proposes an adaptive data-driven algorithm to learn optimal strategies from experience in different scenarios, and to enable individual agents to adapt their strategy during execution. A simulated rescue scenario is used to demonstrate the performance of the proposed methods compared with existing baseline methods.