At the SAE Congress, The U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC) rolled out a new concept enabling multiple autonomous robots to be operated from a single controller.
The new concept enables one operator to see and control multiple robots on a single screen, then give orders to the robots, which autonomously find their way to their destinations. U.S. Army soldiers use the robots to remote check for bombs under vehicles and examine the safety of potentially dangerous houses and apartments in battle regions.
“In the past, we needed one controller per robot and that robot would be heavily dependent on an operator for tele-operation,” said Matt Skalny, a computer engineer for TARDEC. “Here, all the robots can operate autonomously off a single map.”
Using a 3-D camera range finder and a Sick Optic off-the-shelf laser-based sensor, the robot, called the Sentinel, uploads map information to the controller, which then drives all the robots.
TARDEC worked with numerous private partners to bring the project to fruition, Skalny said. The robot was designed in conjunction with iRobot Corp., maker of the Roomba vacuuming robot and with Autonomous Solutions, Inc., and Kuchera Defense Systems.
“The ultimate goal is commercialization,” Skalny said. “We want our partners to put their new technologies into production. That helps bring the costs down.”