[robotics-worldwide] Humanitarian Robotics and Automation Technology Challenge (HRATC) @ ICRA'13

Raj Madhavan madhavan.ieeeras at gmail.com
Tue Apr 30 07:32:34 PDT 2013

Humanitarian Robotics and Automation Technology Challenge (HRATC) @
International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA)
May 8-9, 2013
Karlsruhe, Germany

An IEEE Robotics & Automation Society - Special Interest Group on
Humanitarian Technology (RAS-SIGHT) was approved by the IEEE
Humanitarian Ad Hoc Committee (HAHC) in September 2012. RAS is the
first IEEE Society to have a SIGHT! The mission of RAS-SIGHT is the
application of robotics and automation technologies for promoting
humanitarian causes around the globe, and to leverage existing and
emerging technologies for the benefit of humanity and towards
increasing the quality of life in underserved, underdeveloped areas in
collaboration with existing global communities and organizations. The
Humanitarian Robotics and Automation Technology Challenge (HRATC), as
the name implies, is intended to showcase the use of applied robotics
and automation technology to solve problems for humanitarian causes.
HRATC at ICRA’13 is a demo event and will be transitioned into a robot
challenge event from ICRA’14.

At ICRA’13, we are demonstrating an autonomous, multi-robot system
called COMRADE (COoperative Multi-Robot Automated DEtection) system
that can aid in humanitarian demining efforts. Humanitarian demining
is crucial to ensure the safety and security of humans in
post-conflict regions. Unfortunately, current humanitarian demining
efforts lag significantly behind the rate of landmine-related
accidents in post-conflict regions due to various economic and
technological challenges. COMRADES provides a possible solution to
alleviate some of these issues by developing relatively low-cost,
easy-to-deploy robotic technology, using off-the-shelf robots and
sensors, to detect and locate landmine-like objects with high
accuracy. The major technological components in the COMRADE system
include multi-robot terrain exploration and coverage algorithms,
multi-robot task allocation and task-sharing algorithms, multi-robot
information fusion algorithms and an active user interface that
enables a human user to dynamically monitor the robots’ locations,
status, battery life, etc., and, selectively control the deployment of
the robots to high-interest regions.

Our HRATC demonstration uses two four-wheeled skid-steer robots called
Corobots for a simulated landmine detection scenario. Landmine-like
objects are simulated with red-colored markers that are placed
arbitrarily on the floor of the environment. Each Corobot robot is
equipped with IR proximity sensors, WiFi-based wireless communication,
a color Web camera and an IR-based indoor localization system that
gives the position and orientation of the robot within its
environment. Robots are deployed remotely by the human user from the
control station. Each robot searches autonomously for potential
‘landmines’ (red floor markers) using its on-board camera. On
detecting a 'landmine', a robot sends the landmine’s location to all
other robots within its communication range and to the control
station. Other robots receiving the location of the potential landmine
then head towards the reported location of the landmine to locate and
confirm it on their sensors (camera). The location of the landmine is
also displayed on the user interface. The user interface gets updated
dynamically as more landmines are detected by the robots within the

The COMRADES project is being performed at the CMANTIC Lab
(http://cmantic.unomaha.edu), Computer Science Department at the
University of Nebraska, Omaha and is currently supported by the US
Department of Defense, Office of Naval Research. More information is
available from http://cmantic.unomaha.edu/projects/comrades/index.htm
and for a demo video see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nxidlXQ7iC4.

Participation is welcome to those applying robotic and automation
technologies for humanitarian causes. If you are interested in
participating in RAS-SIGHT activities and in HRATC’14, please contact
Raj Madhavan, Chair, RAS-SIGHT at <raj.madhavan at ieee.org>.

Raj Madhavan, Ph.D.

Vice President, Industrial Activities Board
Chair, Standing Committee for Standards Activities
Chair, RAS-SIGHT (Special Interest Group on Humanitarian Technology)
IEEE Robotics and Automation Society

Institute for Systems Research, University of Maryland College Park
Intelligent Systems Division, National Institute of Standards and Technology

Tel: (301) 975-2865 Fax: (301) 990-9688
Email: madhavan.ieeeras at gmail.com

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