In this paper a distributed control problem for unmanned surface vessels (USVs) is formulated as follows: there are N USVs which pursue another vessel (moving target). At each time instant each USV can obtain measurements of the target’s cartesian coordinates. The objective is to make the USVs converge in a synchronized manner towards the target, while avoiding collisions between them and avoiding collisions with obstacles in their motion plane. A distributed control law is developed for the USVs which enables not only convergence of the USVs to the goal position, but also makes possible to maintain the cohesion of the USVs fleet. Moreover, distributed filtering is performed, so as to obtain an estimate of the target vessel’s state vector. This provides the desirable state vector to be tracked by each one of the USVs. To this end, a new distributed nonlinear filtering method of improved accuracy and computation speed is introduced. This filtering approach, under the name Derivative-free distributed nonlinear Kalman Filter is based on differential flatness theory and on an exact linearization of the target vessel’s dynamic/kinematic model.
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