UDE at the CeBIT fair: Protecting huge National Parks

“The original idea for PLANET came to me as I was working on other EU projects” mentioned its founder and coordinator Marrón. He had a particular interest in the use of large-scale real-world systems, which are composed of various heterogeneous cooperating objects.

These objects can include sensors, actuators or vehicles. What is so special here is that these objects are connected to each other via fixed points, which enables them to communicate with each other and independently work towards a common goal. It was only later realized that the network concept was also applicable to airfields or protected natural parks.

To be more precise, the PLANET project – short for PLAtform for the deployment and operation of Heterogeneous NETworked Cooperating Objects – focuses on the Doñana National Park in Andalusia and the ATLAS airport, where the Spanish government is testing unmanned aircraft. The aim of the project is the development of a portal that enables the networking and optimal use of cooperating mobile objects. This includes unmanned ground and aerial vehicles and wireless sensors.

If pollution of the environment or technical problems occur in an area under observation, then it is registered by at least one of the system components. Prof. Marrón: “one feature that is definitely new about our development is the way in which we combine existing methods to enable various devices to interact with each other in such a wide scope”.

With the airport scenario he concentrates more on the aspects of “security and protection”. Human error should be minimized: “small mistakes happen more often than we think, and they have the potential to be very expensive”. That is why processes should be automated to the greatest possible degree. Among other things tests are being carried out to establish if it is possible for aircraft to pilot and coordinate themselves and even land safely if, for instance, the airport tower fails.

After two years of scientific work in the National Park with twelve partners from five other countries, the computer scientist is very satisfied: “we have specified the entire system, carried out preliminary experiments and used algorithms for automated data collection which adapt the network to the local characteristics”. Prof. Marrón is convinced that the network concept can also be successfully used at other locations. “The concept functions anywhere where devices can be connected to each other, exchange information and cooperate. The National Park and the airport are only two highly visible examples of this technology”. The four-year project is funded by the European Commission.

Contact: Duisburg-Essen University, Faculty of Engineering, Computer Science, Networked Embedded Systems, Prof. Dr. Pedro José Marrón, pjmarron@uni-due.de

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