14 SERVO 06.2015
ROBOTS DO DARPA
DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) recently released the final rules document for their Robotic Challenge Finals. Here is the list of tasks that robots will have to complete to score points:
1. Drive the vehicle (same vehicle type as in Trials).
2. Egress from the vehicle (get out of the vehicle).
3. Open door and travel through opening. The door will open inward (away from the robot). The door will
not include a threshold. Once fully opened, the door is designed to remain open.
4. Open valve (similar to one of the three valves in Trials). DARPA will use a circular handle with a diameter
between four inches ( 10 cm) and 16 inches ( 40 cm). The valve opens by counter-clockwise rotation.
5. Use a cutting tool to cut a hole in a wall (similar to one of the two tools and the wall in Trials). A circle
will be drawn on the wall, approximately eight inches ( 20 cm) in diameter. The cutting operation must entirely
remove all wall material from the designated circle.
6. Surprise manipulation task (not disclosed until Finals). The task will require manipulation and no mobility.
7. Traverse rubble. Either cross a debris field (by moving the debris or traversing it, similar to Trials) or
negotiate irregular terrain (similar to Trials).
8. Climb stairs (fewer steps and less steep than in Trials). The stairway has a rail on the left side and no rail
on the right side.
Funded by a South Korean defense research institute, a group of roboticists at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and
Technology (KAIST) has been testing out ways of using autonomous
unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to locate, intercept, and disable other
Dr. David Shim, who leads KAIST’s Unmanned System Research
Group (USRG) and also the Center of Field Robotics for Innovation,
Exploration aNd Defense (C-FRIEND), explains what prompted this
sort of research and testing:
“We imagined in the near future there would be UAVs fighting UAVs.
[…] As found in many cases, including the recent incident of [a DJI
Phantom] wandering into the White House, even if you know UAVs are out
there, it is very hard to stop them. One can try to shoot them with rifles or
missiles, but they are too small for guns or guided weapons. So, our solution
is to stop them with another UAV. As they say, eye for eye, and tooth for
Shim and his group are working with a variety of UAVs with
different capabilities. These include agile multi-rotor UAVs equipped
with nets that can be dropped on enemy UAVs to disable them. He says
the biggest challenge is in programming the drones to operate fully
autonomously, using onboard vision to detect the target UAVs, and then bringing them down by precisely
releasing the nets on them.
The goal of the project — which is still in its early stages — is developing UAVs that could be used
as part of an anti-drone defense system, and that could also go on the offensive if necessary. For a recent
demonstration, Shim envisioned a scenario in which his UAVs must take on a rocket-launching enemy
vehicle, which is itself guarded by its own UAVs.
For the test, the first UAV to take off was a fixed-wing “eye-in-the-sky” reconnaissance drone used
to gather intel on the enemy. Next, a swarm of small agile UAVs took to the sky. These small UAVs had
two tasks to perform: neutralizing the guard UAVs; and escort a larger attack UAV (which in a real
conflict would transport a small ground robot with an explosive charge).
Image: courtesy of KAIST USRG.