Efficient Large-Scale Multi-Drone Delivery Using Transit Networks

Choudhury, Shushman, Solovey, Kiril, Kochenderfer, Mykel J., Pavone, Marco

arXiv.org Artificial Intelligence 

We consider the problem of controlling a large fleet of drones to deliver packages simultaneously across broad urban areas. To conserve their limited flight range, drones can seamlessly hop between and ride on top of public transit vehicles (e.g., buses and trams). We design a novel comprehensive algorithmic framework that strives to minimize the maximum time to complete any delivery. We address the multifaceted complexity of the problem through a two-layer approach. First, the upper layer assigns drones to package delivery sequences with a provably near-optimal polynomial-time task allocation algorithm. Then, the lower layer executes the allocation by periodically routing the fleet over the transit network while employing efficient bounded-suboptimal multi-agent pathfinding techniques tailored to our setting. We present extensive experiments supporting the efficiency of our approach on settings with up to $200$ drones, $5000$ packages, and large transit networks of up to $8000$ stops in San Francisco and the Washington DC area. Our results show that the framework can compute solutions within a few seconds (up to $2$ minutes for the largest settings) on commodity hardware, and that drones travel up to $450 \%$ of their flight range by using public transit.

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