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Robot Takes on Landmine Detection While Humans Stay Very Very Far Away

It doesn't get much more dangerous than searching for unexploded landmines, but this robot is fearless (and replaceable)

2 min read
Robot Takes on Landmine Detection While Humans Stay Very Very Far Away

In 2012, Clearpath Robotics decided to give away a customized Husky UGV to a worthy cause, and what could be more worthy than keeping us humans from getting blown up. The University of Coimbra in Portugal has taken its free Husky and turned it into an clever little autonomous mobile mine detector.

Huskies don't come stock with the ability to detect mines. Or rather, they may be able to detect one single mine once. By accident. Catastrophically. To get the robot all set to not blow itself (or anyone else) into tiny little chunks, the team at Coimbra added sensors for navigation and localization (GPS, stereo vision, and a laser), as well as (more importantly) a customized two-degrees-of-freedom arm equipped with both a metal detector and a ground penetrating radar system.

The reason why you want to have a robot doing mine detection is fairly obvious: if the robot gets explodified, you can just buy another one. But the argument for autonomous systems is also one of sheer volume: there are something like 110,000,000 active landmines out there right now, just waiting to do bad stuff to people. And they're horrifically effective at it, killing and injuring tens of thousands of people each year.

At full blast, humans (and rats) are clearing out about 100,000 mines every year, giving us about A THOUSAND YEARS before we'd be able to clear up all of them. So we need robots. Smart robots. Inexpensive robots. And lots of them. To that end, the project has been folded into Tiramisu, which is both a tasty dessert and a humanitarian demining project in Europe.

This is great research. Really, really great. But detecting the mines is only half of what needs to be done: they still have to be dealt with somehow. Our suggestion is to crossbreed a Grizzly with one of these monstrosities and just beat those landmines into explosive submission.

The researchers plan to present additional results at ICRA 2014, which is coming up, um, kind of soon, actually.

Via [ Clearpath Robotics ]

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Image of a combine harvester within a wheat field, harvesting.

Russia is the world's largest wheat exporter, with 20 percent of the world's wheat trade. Combine harvesters that can drive themselves using technology from Russian company Cognitive Pilot are helping to make the harvesting process faster and more efficient.

Cognitive Pilot
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The field of automated precision agriculture is based on one concept—autonomous driving technologies that guide vehicles through GPS navigation. Fifteen years ago, when high-accuracy GPS became available for civilian use, farmers thought things would be simple: Put a GPS receiver station at the edge of the field, configure a route for a tractor or a combine harvester, and off you go, dear robot!

Practice has shown, however, that this kind of carefree field cultivation is inefficient and dangerous. It works only in ideal fields, which are almost never encountered in real life. If there's a log or a rock in the field, or a couple of village paramours dozing in the rye under the sun, the tractor will run right over them. And not all countries have reliable satellite coverage—in agricultural markets like Kazakhstan, coverage can be unstable. This is why, if you want safe and efficient farming, you need to equip your vehicle with sensors and an artificial intelligence that can see and understand its surroundings instead of blindly following GPS navigation instructions.

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