Algorithms for Optimizing Search Schedules in a Polygon
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In the area of motion planning, considerable work has been done on guarding problems, where "guards", modelled as points, must guard a polygonal space from "intruders". Different variants of this problem involve varying a number of factors. The guards performing the search may vary in terms of their number, their mobility, and their range of vision. The model of intruders may or may not allow them to move. The polygon being searched may have a specified starting point, a specified ending point, or neither of these. The typical question asked about one of these problems is whether or not certain polygons can be searched under a particular guarding paradigm defined by the types of guards and intruders. In this thesis, we focus on two cases of a chain of guards searching a room (polygon with a specific starting point) for mobile intruders. The intruders must never be allowed to escape through the door undetected. In the case of the two guard problem, the guards must start at the door point and move in opposite directions along the boundary of the polygon, never crossing the door point. At all times, the guards must be able to see each other. The search is complete once both guards occupy the same spot elsewhere on the polygon. In the case of a chain of three guards, consecutive guards in the chain must always be visible. Again, the search starts at the door point, and the outer guards of the chain must move from the door in opposite directions. These outer guards must always remain on the boundary of the polygon. The search is complete once the chain lies entirely on a portion of the polygon boundary not containing the door point. Determining whether a polygon can be searched is a problem in the area of visibility in polygons; further to that, our work is related to the area of planning algorithms. We look for ways to find optimal schedules that minimize the distance or time required to complete the search. This is done by finding shortest paths in visibility diagrams that indicate valid positions for the guards. In the case of the two-guard room search, we are able to find the shortest distance schedule and the quickest schedule. The shortest distance schedule is found in O(n^2) time by solving an L_1 shortest path problem among curved obstacles in two dimensions. The quickest search schedule is found in O(n^4) time by solving an L_infinity shortest path problem among curved obstacles in two dimensions. For the chain of three guards, a search schedule minimizing the total distance travelled by the outer guards is found in O(n^6) time by solving an L_1 shortest path problem among curved obstacles in two dimensions.