Distributed Intelligence for Multi-Agent Systems in Search and Rescue

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Virginia Tech


Unfavorable environmental and (or) human displacement may engender the need for Search and Rescue (SAR). Challenges such as inaccessibility, large search areas, and heavy reliance on available responder count, limited equipment and training makes SAR a challenging problem. Additionally, SAR operations also pose significant risk to involved responders. This opens a remarkable opportunity for robotic systems to assist and augment human understanding of the harsh environments. A large body of work exists on the introduction of ground and aerial robots in visual and temporal inspection of search areas with varying levels of autonomy. Unfortunately, limited autonomy is the norm in such systems, due to the limitations presented by on-board UAV resources and networking capabilities.

In this work we propose a new multi-agent approach to SAR and introduce a wearable compute cluster in the form factor of a backpack. The backpack allows offloading compute intensive tasks such as Lost Person Behavior Modelling, Path Planning and Deep Neural Network based computer vision applications away from the UAVs and offers significantly high performance computers to execute them. The backpack also provides for a strong networking backbone and task orchestrators which allow for enhanced coordination and resource sharing among all the agents in the system. On the basis of our benchmarking experiments, we observe that the backpack can significantly boost capabilities and success in modern SAR responses.



Distributed Computing, Multi-Agent Systems, Search and Rescue, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles, Deep learning (Machine learning), Inference