Chemical Plume Tracking Behavior in Animals and Mobile Robots

Mark A. Willis

Peer Reviewed

Abstract: The most important and challenging feat of navigation for many animals is locating important resources by tracking fluid-borne chemicals. As molecules of a source dissolve into flowing air or water they form a patchy turbulent plume which results in the intermittent stimulation required by many odor tracking animals. Most animals need two pieces of information to track a plume: (1) the presence of odor, and (2) the direction of the flow. In most cases, steering into the flow and moving upstream while in contact with odor should lead the tracker to the odor’s source. How plume trackers sample for odor information and what rules they use to generate the behavior we observe have been addressed using computer simulations or mobile robots as models of the biological trackers. These approaches also result in the development of control algorithms for autonomous man-made plume tracking systems.
Published in: NAVIGATION: Journal of the Institute of Navigation, Volume 55, Number 2
Pages: 127 - 135
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