The December 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

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)

The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

Keep Reading ↓Show less