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Innovation

Another robotic vehicle to help soldiers

There are many teams of U.S. scientists working on robots able to find improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq before they can kill American soldiers. Today, let's look at an effort going on at Florida State University (FSU) to build unmanned ground vehicles that also could be used for civilian missions.
Written by Roland Piquepaille, Inactive

There are many teams of U.S. scientists working on robots able to find improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq before they can kill American soldiers. Today, let's look at an effort going on at Florida State University (FSU) to build unmanned ground vehicles that could save soldiers' lives. The researchers are creating complex algorithms to control these robots who will have to integrate many different factors such as the type of ground surface or obstacles that might block the vehicle's path. Some of these robots, which also could be used for civilian missions, are currently being tested at FSU. Read more...

Here is the introduction from FSU News.

Emmanuel G. Collins [, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at FSU,] envisions the creation of an unmanned ground vehicle that could patrol large areas without putting U.S. soldiers in harm's way.
"We're already using drones (unmanned airplanes) for surveillance in the skies over Iraq," Collins said. "It's much more difficult to design a ground-based vehicle to perform surveillance functions -- but we're working out the logistical issues right now."

Collins is the director of the Center for Intelligent Systems, Control, and Robotics (CISCOR). Below is a picture of one of their robots navigating among dense obstacles (Credit: CISCOR).

Robot navigating among dense obstacles

This picture was extracted from a short video available from this direct link (Windows Media Player format, 1'31", 22.2 MB).

Collins and his team are currently working on algorithms able to control these unmanned ground vehicles who will have to face a great number of situations.

"We have to take into account such factors as terrain, any obstacles that might block the vehicle's path, the rate of fuel consumption, the type of ground surface, weather conditions and the structure of the vehicle itself," he said.
Once such an algorithm is prepared, various sensors employing laser, optical and/or radio-frequency technology would feed a constant stream of data to the vehicle's computer to help it make sense of its surroundings and react accordingly.

And it seems that the U.S. Army is interested in this research, because it has decided to fund it for eight years and a total of $4 million.

For more information, you can read this technical paper, "Robot Navigation In Very Cluttered Environments By Preference-Based Fuzzy Behaviors" (PDF format, 23 pages, 461 KB) or browse the CISCOR publications.

Sources: Barry Ray, Florida State University News, June 1, 2006; and various web sites

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