Cooperative manipulation is a basic skill in groups of humans, ani- mals, and in many robotic applications. Besides being an interesting challenge, communication-less approaches have been applied to groups of robots in order to achieve higher scalability and simpler hardware and software design. We present a generic model and control law for robots cooperatively manipulating an object, for both ground and floating systems.
The control method exploits a leader-follower scheme and is based only on implicit communication (i.e., the sensing of contact forces). The control objective mainly consists of steering the object manipulated by the swarm of robots to a desired position and orientation in a cooperative way. For a system with just one leader, we present analytical results on the equilibrium configurations and their stability that are then validated by numerical simulations. The role of object in- ternal forces (induced by the robots through contact forces) is discussed in terms of convergence of the object position and orientation to the desired values. We also present a discussion on additional properties of the controlled system that were investigated using thorough numerical analysis, namely, the robustness of the system when the object is subject to external disturbances in non-ideal condi- tions, and how the number of leaders in the swarm can affect the aforementioned convergence and robustness.