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Marsupial Robot Team Monitors Rivers From Water and Air

An autonomous boat and hexacopter cooperate to autonomously navigate and map rivers

2 min read
Marsupial Robot Team Monitors Rivers From Water and Air

I know what you're thinking right now, because I was thinking it too as soon as I saw the phrase "marsupial robot team:" you're thinking about robot koalas. Or robot kangaroos. Or maybe robot wombats. As awesome as that would be, today you're going to have to make do with something only slightly less awesome, which is this duo of a robotic boat and a hexacopter that cooperate to collect data on rivers and lakes.

The "marsupial" bit refers to the hexacopter, which uses the boat as (to stretch the metaphor slightly into the absurd) a pouch. With enough solar cells and good weather, the boat could power both itself and the hexacopter, extending its operating time significantly, or in the absolute best case, indefinitely. The whole thing runs ROS, and looks to be capable of very robust autonomous navigation, but the really cool part is how the boat and the hexacopter can team up and combine the data sets that they collect to create far more comprehensive and accurate maps than either could alone. 

A particular aspect to be taken into account is the interaction of robots to take the best of the complementary visual perspectives they have of the environment. The goal is to use an aerial perspective to promote on-water safe navigation. In the application scenario, the robotic team, moving downriver, assesses a series of environmental variables. In case a pollution indicator is triggered the aerial platform is asked to perform a local survey. This information is passed on to a remote control centre, where a human operator is monitoring and configuring the mission.

The project is called RIVERWATCH, and it was part of ECHORD (the European Clearing House for Open Robotics Development) up until it actually started working, at which point it was transferred over to UNINOVA in Portugal. This is ongoing research, with several recent IEEE publications (w00t!), so we're certainly looking forward to some additional robotic marsupialness. Like maybe a submarine? Or a UGV? Or, a rocket?

 [ RIVERWATCH ] and [ ECHORD ] via [ Hackaday ]

The Conversation (0)

How Robots Can Help Us Act and Feel Younger

Toyota’s Gill Pratt on enhancing independence in old age

10 min read
An illustration of a woman making a salad with robotic arms around her holding vegetables and other salad ingredients.
Dan Page

By 2050, the global population aged 65 or more will be nearly double what it is today. The number of people over the age of 80 will triple, approaching half a billion. Supporting an aging population is a worldwide concern, but this demographic shift is especially pronounced in Japan, where more than a third of Japanese will be 65 or older by midcentury.

Toyota Research Institute (TRI), which was established by Toyota Motor Corp. in 2015 to explore autonomous cars, robotics, and “human amplification technologies,” has also been focusing a significant portion of its research on ways to help older people maintain their health, happiness, and independence as long as possible. While an important goal in itself, improving self-sufficiency for the elderly also reduces the amount of support they need from society more broadly. And without technological help, sustaining this population in an effective and dignified manner will grow increasingly difficult—first in Japan, but globally soon after.

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