There has been growing interest in the use of multi-robot systems in various tasks and scenarios. The main attractiveness of such systems is their flexibility, robustness, and scalability. An often overlooked yet promising feature is system modularity, which offers the possibility of harnessing agent specialization, while also enabling system-level upgrades. However, altering the agents’ capacities can change the exploration–exploitation balance required to maximize the system’s performance. Here, we study the effect of a swarm’s heterogeneity on its exploration–exploitation balance while tracking multiple fast-moving evasive targets under the cooperative multi-robot observation of multiple moving targets framework. To this end, we use a decentralized search and tracking strategy with adjustable levels of exploration and exploitation. By indirectly tuning the balance, we first confirm the presence of an optimal balance between these two key competing actions. Next, by substituting slower moving agents with faster ones, we show that the system exhibits a performance improvement without any modifications to the original strategy. In addition, owing to the additional amount of exploitation carried out by the faster agents, we demonstrate that a heterogeneous system’s performance can be further improved by reducing an agent’s level of connectivity, to favor the conduct of exploratory actions. Furthermore, in studying the influence of the density of swarming agents, we show that the addition of faster agents can counterbalance a reduction in the overall number of agents while maintaining the level of tracking performance. Finally, we explore the challenges of using differentiated strategies to take advantage of the heterogeneous nature of the swarm.

You do not currently have access to this content.