Reactive Magnetic-Field-Inspired navigation method for robots in unknown convex 3-D environments

Ahmad Ataka*, Hak Keung Lam, Kaspar Althoefer

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)
188 Downloads (Pure)


With a shift in current robotics application from known, well-defined environments toward unknown environments, the robot's ability to avoid unknown obstacles in real-time while relying on limited information about spatial constraints in its path becomes essential. Taking inspiration from the laws of electromagnetism, we present a novel navigation method, whereby the moving robot induces an artificial electric current onto the obstacle surface generating, in turn, a magnetic field guiding the robot along the obstacle's boundary without affecting its kinetic energy. Our method has several advantages over existing methods, which are as follows. 1) It guides point-like robots toward the goal without suffering from local minima in 3-D environments populated with convex obstacles. 2) It does not need any prior knowledge of obstacle positions and geometries. 3) It only requires environmental sensor information that is spatially and temporally local to generate motion commands iteratively. Our navigation method is tested in simulations and experiments, showing that a point-to-point navigation of point-like robots and the end effector of the Baxter's arm has been successfully achieved in a collision-free manner toward a goal position in a 3-D environment populated with unknown convex obstacles.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8408499
Pages (from-to)3583-3590
Number of pages8
JournalIEEE Robotics and Automation Letters
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • collision avoidance
  • motion and path planning
  • Reactive and sensor-based planning


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