bots IN BRIEF
18 SERVO 10.2013
DRONES SAY BUG OFF
Is there anything worse than mosquitoes? Probably, but
mosquitoes are pretty bad. Besides being buzzy and itchy and
annoying, they can transmit nasty diseases including malaria and West
Nile virus, even in civilized (mostly) places like Florida. The issue with
mosquitoes is that they're everywhere, and if you've ever tried to get
rid of even one mosquito, you can imagine how hard mass eradication
is. Well, in Florida, they're about to experiment with aerial drones to
see if they can help.
The secret to mosquito eradication seems to be to tackle them
in the larval stage when they live in warm shallow pools of water.
With chemicals (or hungry fish), you can get rid of the larvae before they take flight. The issue in places like Florida is that
warm and shallow pools of water are absolutely everywhere, and finding them all becomes a real problem. The Florida
Keys Mosquito Control District will be using a Maveric drone from Condor Aerial equipped with a shortwave infrared
camera to see if it's possible to detect pools of water likely to contain mosquito larvae. Once the pools are found,
figuratively “nuking” them is relatively straightforward. Here’s a video about Maveric drones:
GOING APE OVER ROBOSIMIAN
The DARPA Robotics Challenge is mere months away, and now
we're getting some early looks at progress on some of the Track A
robots. This is RoboSimian — from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory —
starting to experiment with hands developed at Stanford.
RoboSimian isn't finished yet, but that's part of what's exciting
here. We’ll get to see videos of the Track A teams developing and
testing their hardware prior to the Challenge in December. JPL is
particularly interesting because they've decided not to build a
humanoid like most of the rest of the Track A teams. Instead,
RoboSimian is more of, well, a simian — a term used most often to
refer to apes, although technically we humans are simians too.
In particular, RoboSimian will use its four general-purpose limbs
and hands — capable of both mobility and manipulation — to achieve
passively stable stances; create multi-point anchored connections to
supports such as ladders, railings, and stair treads; and brace itself
during forceful manipulation operations.
It looks like RoboSimian is going to have no trouble with ladder
climbing or manipulation, and if it ends up walking around on four legs
instead of two, that could significantly simplify some of the walking
challenges. So the question is, what disadvantages does a form like this
have over a more traditional humanoid robot — if any? We may have
to wait until the end of the year to find out but in the meantime, keep
an eye out for videos from all of the DRC teams.
Here’s a video to check out of RoboSimian: