A Distributed Control Approach to Formation Balancing and Maneuvering of Multiple Multirotor UAVs

Yuyi Liu, Jan Maximilian Montenbruck, Daniel Zelazo, Marcin Odelga, Sujit Rajappa, Heinrich H. Bulthoff, Frank Allgower, Andreas Zell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, we propose and experimentally verify a distributed formation control algorithm for a group of multirotor unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). The algorithm brings the whole group of UAVs simultaneously to a prescribed submanifold that determines the formation shape in an asymptotically stable fashion in two- and three-dimensional environments. The complete distributed control framework is implemented with the combination of a fast model predictive control method executed at 50 Hz on low-power computers onboard multirotor UAVs and validated via a series of hardware-in-the-loop simulations and real-robot experiments. The experiments are configured to study the control performance in various formation cases of arbitrary time-varying (e.g., expanding, shrinking, or moving) shapes. In the actual experiments, up to four multirotors have been implemented to form arbitrary triangular, rectangular, and circular shapes drawn by the operator via a human-robot interaction device. We also carry out hardware-in-the-loop simulations using up to six onboard computers to achieve spherical formations and a formation moving through obstacles.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8429104
Pages (from-to)870-882
Number of pages13
JournalIEEE Transactions on Robotics
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Aug

Bibliographical note

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  • Aerial robotics
  • distributed formation control
  • human-swarm interaction
  • multiagent systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Control and Systems Engineering
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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