Four-legged robot uses drone companion for trouble-scouting

Teams of robotics designers and researchers around the world are working hard to develop four legged robots with the aim of carrying equipment and supplies for workers and troops in the field. Part of designing those robots is devising a way that the bots can handle rough terrain without causing more harm than good for the humans working with them. A team of robotics designers from ETH Zurich's Autonomous Systems Lab has a new bot that pairs two systems for scouting terrain ahead.

The bot has its own flying drone partner and that drone flies ahead to help the robot scout out the terrain that it will be facing as it moves. The pair of autonomous robots work together to map and navigate changing terrain.

The UAV files ahead of the bot that lumbers on the ground and creates a rough map of the area. That map includes relative elevations of the land ahead and that data is used to map the most efficient route to take for the robot.

The bot then uses a laser range finger to continually update its own elevation maps so that it can be sure that it is able to navigate the terrain without falling. A few questions arise in my mind, such as how the drone gets power; flying drones have a short battery life typically.

NOTE: This story previously used the term "packbot" – its since become clear that the word "packbot" is trademarked to the folks at iRobot – specifically for the 510 PackBot robotic system which you can read more about in our story about Canadian defense system robot action.

SOURCE: Engadget