Section: Research Program

Collaborative and distributed network control

This research line deals with the problem of designing controllers with a limited use of the network information (i.e. with restricted feedback), and with the aim to reach a pre-specified global behavior. This is in contrast to centralized controllers that use the whole system information and compute the control law at some central node. Collaborative control has already been explored in the team in connection with the underwater robot fleet, and to some extent with the source seeking problem. It remains however a certain number of challenging problems that the team wishes to address:

  • Design of control with limited information, able to lead to desired global behaviors. Here the graph structure is imposed by the problem, and we aim to design the “best” possible control under such a graph constraint (Such a problem has been previously addressed in some specific applications, particularly robot fleets, and only few recent theoretical works have initiated a more systematic system-theoretic study of sparsity-constrained system realization theory and of sparsity-constrained feedback control.). The team would like to explore further this research line, targeting a better understanding of possible metrics to be used as a target for optimal control design. In particular, and in connection with the traffic application, the long-standing open problem of ramp metering control under minimum information will be addressed.

  • Clustering control for large networks. For large and complex systems composed of several sub-networks, feedback design is usually treated at the sub-network level, and most of the times without taking into account natural interconnections between sub-networks. The team is exploring new control strategies, exploiting the emergent behaviors resulting from new interconnections between the network components. This requires first to build network models operating in aggregated clusters, and then to re-formulate problems where the control can be designed using the cluster boundaries rather than individual control loops inside of each network. Examples can be found in the transportation application domain, where a significant challenge will be to obtain dynamic partitioning and clustering of heterogeneous networks in homogeneous sub-networks, and then to control the perimeter flows of the clusters to optimize the network operation. This topic is at the core of the Advanced ERC project Scale-FreeBack.