The work described is part of a long term program of introducing institutional robotics, a novel framework for the coordination of robot teams that stems from institutional economics concepts. Under the framework, institutions are cumulative sets of persistent artificial modifications made to the environment or to the internal mechanisms of a subset of agents, thought to be functional for the collective order. In this article we introduce a formal model of institutional controllers based on Petri nets. We define executable Petri nets—an extension of Petri nets that takes into account robot actions and sensing—to design, program, and execute institutional controllers. We use a generalized stochastic Petri net view of the robot team controlled by the institutional controllers to model and analyze the stochastic performance of the resulting distributed robotic system. The ability of our formalism to replicate results obtained using other approaches is assessed through realistic simulations of up to 40 e-puck robots. In particular, we model a robot swarm and its institutional controller with the goal of maintaining wireless connectivity, and successfully compare our model predictions and simulation results with previously reported results, obtained by using finite state automaton models and controllers.

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