Undirected rigid formations are problematic

Shaoshuai Mou, Mohamed Ali Belabbas, A. Stephen Morse, Zhiyong Sun, Brian D.O. Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In a recent paper, a systematic method was proposed for devising gradient control laws for asymptotically stabilizing a large class of rigid, undirected formations in two-dimensional space assuming all agents are described by kinematic point models. The aim of this paper is to explain what happens to such formations if neighboring agents have slightly different understandings of what the desired distance between them is supposed to be. What one would expect would be a gradual distortion of the formation from its target shape as discrepancies in desired distances increase. While this is observed for the gradient laws in question, something else quite unexpected happens at the same time. It is shown for any rigidity-based, undirected formation of this type which is comprised of three or more agents, that if some neighboring agents have slightly different understandings of what the desired distances between them are supposed to be, then almost for certain, the trajectory of the resulting distorted but rigid formation will converge exponentially fast to a closed circular orbit in two-dimensional space which is traversed periodically at a constant angular speed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number7342894
Pages (from-to)2821-2836
Number of pages16
JournalIEEE Transactions on Automatic Control
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2016


  • Multi-agent systems
  • Rigidity
  • Robustness
  • Undirected formations

ASJC Scopus subject areas

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


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