Connected autonomous systems in hostile environments

2011 - #

© Fraunhofer IOSB

Autonomous, networked robots such as flying drones, unmanned ground vehicles (UGV) and semi-autonomous machines are predestined to tackle dangerous tasks such as reconnoitering hazardous or poorly accessible environments in the wake of an earthquake or an industrial accident in order to provide an accurate situation report. They can also clean up contaminants, sparing humans the need to work in areas with health hazards. But these applications present a host of technical challenges. The robots have to be able to navigate unknown and irregular terrain, extract information from a wide range of sensor data to provide a standardized situation report, and plan and execute complex motion sequences to perform manipulation tasks. They should also be able to cope with unexpected events and make independent decisions.

Fraunhofer IOSB has pursued many projects over the years to advance these technologies. One result is a toolbox of algorithms for localization, mapping, obstacle detection and motion planning. Another is a retrofit kit for machinery to equip standard tractors and excavators with autonomous
functions.

IOSB.BoB, the “excavator without operator” (see photo), has been attracting attention at many demonstrations since 2017. In 2018, these efforts culminated in the founding of the Fraunhofer IOSB-led competence center ROBDEKON on robotic systems for decontamination in environments hostile to humans