Path planning using potential field representation

Yong K. Hwang, Narendra Ahuja

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Finding a safe, smooth, and efficient path to move an object through obstacles is necessary for object manipulation in robotics and automation. This paper presents an approach to two-dimensional as well as three-dimensional findpath problems that divides the problem into two steps. First, rough paths are found based only on topological information. This is accomplished by assigning to each obstacle an artificial potential similar to the electrostatic potential to prevent the moving object from colliding with the obstacles, and then locating minimum potential valleys. Second, the paths defined by the minimum potential valleys are modified to obtain an optimal collision-free path and orientations of the moving object along the path. Three algorithms are given to accomplish this second step. The first algorithm simply minimizes a weighted sum of the path length and the total potential experienced by the moving object along the path. This algorithm solves only “easy” problems where the free space between the obstacles is wide. The other two algorithms are developed to handle the problems in which intelligent maneuvering of the moving object among tightly packed obstacles is necessary. These three algorithms based on potential fields are nearly complete in scope, and solve a large variety of problems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)481-488
Number of pages8
JournalProceedings of SPIE - The International Society for Optical Engineering
StatePublished - Mar 29 1988

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Electronic, Optical and Magnetic Materials
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Applied Mathematics
  • Electrical and Electronic Engineering


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