Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Robot reconnoiters uncharted terrain

Mobile robots have many uses. They serve as cleaners, carry out inspections and search for survivors of disasters. But often, there is no map to guide them through unknown territory. Researchers have now developed a mobile robot that can roam uncharted terrain and simultaneously map it – all thanks to an algorithm toolbox.

Industrial robots have been a familiar sight in the workplace for many years. In automotive and household appliance manufacture, for example, they have proved highly reliable on production and assembly lines.

Equipped with multiple sensors and optical cameras, the mobile robot roams over dangerous ground. © Fraunhofer IOSB

But now a new generation of high-tech helpers is at hand: Mobile robots are being used in place of humans to explore hazardous and difficult-to-access environments such as buildings in danger of collapsing, caves, or ground that has been polluted by an industrial accident.

Equipped with sensors and optical cameras, these robots can help rescue services search for victims in the wake of natural disasters, explosions or fires, and can measure concentrations of hazardous substances. There’s just one problem: Often there is no map to show them the location of obstacles and steer them along navigable routes. Yet such maps are critical to ensuring that the high-tech machines are able to make progress, either independently or guided by remote control. Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB in Karlsruhe have now developed a roaming land robot that autonomously reconnoiters and maps uncharted terrain. The robot uses special algorithms and multi-sensor data to carve a path through unknown territory.

“To be able to navigate independently, our mobile robot has to fulfill a number of requirements. It must be able to localize itself within its immediate surroundings, continuously recalculate its position as it makes its way through the danger area, and simultaneously refine the map it is generating,” says graduate engineer Christian Frey of the IOSB. To make this possible, he and his team have developed an algorithm toolbox for the robot that runs on a built-in computer. The robot is additionally equipped with a variety of sensors. Odometry sensors measure wheel revolutions, inertial sensors compute accelerations, and distance-measuring sensors register clearance from walls, steps, trees and bushes, to name but a few potential obstacles. Cameras and laser scanners record the environment and assist in the mapping process. The algorithms read the various data supplied by the sensors and use them to determine the robot’s precise location. The interplay of all these different elements concurrently produces a map, which is updated continuously. Experts call the process Simultaneous Localization and Mapping, or SLAM.

Mobile robots face an additional challenge: to find the optimal path that will enable them to complete each individual task. Depending on the situation, this may be the shortest and quickest route, or perhaps the most energy-efficient, i.e. the one that uses the least amount of gasoline. When planning a course, the high-tech helpers must take into account restrictions on mobility such as a limited turning circle, and must navigate around obstacles. And should the environment change, for example as a result of falling objects or earthquake aftershocks, a robot must register this and use its toolbox to recalculate its route.

“We made our toolbox modular, so it’s not difficult to adapt the algorithms to suit different types of mobile robot or specific in- or outdoor application scenarios. For example, it doesn’t matter what sensor set-up is used, or whether the robot has two- or four-wheel drive,” says Frey. The software can be customized to meet the needs of individual users, with development work taking just a few months. Frey adds: “The toolbox is suitable for all sorts of situations, not only accident response scenarios. It can be installed in cleaning robots or lawnmowers, for example, and a further possible application would be in roaming robots used to patrol buildings or inspect gas pipelines for weak points.” From March 6-10, the IOSB researchers will be demonstrating their mobile robot technology at the CeBIT trade fair – visit them at the joint Fraunhofer booth in Hall 9 (Booth E08).

Christian Frey | Fraunhofer Research News
Further information:

Further reports about: IOSB ROBOT algorithm algorithm toolbox laser scanners mobile robots natural disaster

More articles from Power and Electrical Engineering:

nachricht Did you know that specialty light sources are being used for water analysis?
22.03.2018 | Heraeus Noblelight GmbH

nachricht Neutrons pave the way to accelerated production of lithium-ion cells
20.03.2018 | Technische Universität München

All articles from Power and Electrical Engineering >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Space observation with radar to secure Germany's space infrastructure

Satellites in near-Earth orbit are at risk due to the steady increase in space debris. But their mission in the areas of telecommunications, navigation or weather forecasts is essential for society. Fraunhofer FHR therefore develops radar-based systems which allow the detection, tracking and cataloging of even the smallest particles of debris. Satellite operators who have access to our data are in a better position to plan evasive maneuvers and prevent destructive collisions. From April, 25-29 2018, Fraunhofer FHR and its partners will exhibit the complementary radar systems TIRA and GESTRA as well as the latest radar techniques for space observation across three stands at the ILA Berlin.

The "traffic situation" in space is very tense: the Earth is currently being orbited not only by countless satellites but also by a large volume of space...

Im Focus: Researchers Discover New Anti-Cancer Protein

An international team of researchers has discovered a new anti-cancer protein. The protein, called LHPP, prevents the uncontrolled proliferation of cancer cells in the liver. The researchers led by Prof. Michael N. Hall from the Biozentrum, University of Basel, report in “Nature” that LHPP can also serve as a biomarker for the diagnosis and prognosis of liver cancer.

The incidence of liver cancer, also known as hepatocellular carcinoma, is steadily increasing. In the last twenty years, the number of cases has almost doubled...

Im Focus: Researchers at Fraunhofer monitor re-entry of Chinese space station Tiangong-1

In just a few weeks from now, the Chinese space station Tiangong-1 will re-enter the Earth's atmosphere where it will to a large extent burn up. It is possible that some debris will reach the Earth's surface. Tiangong-1 is orbiting the Earth uncontrolled at a speed of approx. 29,000 km/h.Currently the prognosis relating to the time of impact currently lies within a window of several days. The scientists at Fraunhofer FHR have already been monitoring Tiangong-1 for a number of weeks with their TIRA system, one of the most powerful space observation radars in the world, with a view to supporting the German Space Situational Awareness Center and the ESA with their re-entry forecasts.

Following the loss of radio contact with Tiangong-1 in 2016 and due to the low orbital height, it is now inevitable that the Chinese space station will...

Im Focus: Alliance „OLED Licht Forum“ – Key partner for OLED lighting solutions

Fraunhofer Institute for Organic Electronics, Electron Beam and Plasma Technology FEP, provider of research and development services for OLED lighting solutions, announces the founding of the “OLED Licht Forum” and presents latest OLED design and lighting solutions during light+building, from March 18th – 23rd, 2018 in Frankfurt a.M./Germany, at booth no. F91 in Hall 4.0.

They are united in their passion for OLED (organic light emitting diodes) lighting with all of its unique facets and application possibilities. Thus experts in...

Im Focus: Mars' oceans formed early, possibly aided by massive volcanic eruptions

Oceans formed before Tharsis and evolved together, shaping climate history of Mars

A new scenario seeking to explain how Mars' putative oceans came and went over the last 4 billion years implies that the oceans formed several hundred million...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

New solar solutions for sustainable buildings and cities

23.03.2018 | Event News

Virtual reality conference comes to Reutlingen

19.03.2018 | Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

For graphite pellets, just add elbow grease

23.03.2018 | Materials Sciences

Unique communication strategy discovered in stem cell pathway controlling plant growth

23.03.2018 | Agricultural and Forestry Science

Sharpening the X-ray view of the nanocosm

23.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>