Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Robotics Team Goes "Micro" To Combat Crime, Aid Rescue Efforts

Date:
March 3, 2000
Source:
Michigan State University
Summary:
The gunman is barricaded in a small room with hostages. As he calculates his next move, he fails to notice that he is not alone--not by a long shot. A handful of robots the size of Palmetto bugs move in on him, navigating floors and furniture, scaling walls and ceilings, tunneling through the ventilation system. Before he realizes what is happening, the SWAT team storms into the room...

The gunman is barricaded in a small room with hostages. As he calculates his next move, he fails to notice that he is not alone--not by a long shot. A handful of robots the size of Palmetto bugs move in on him, navigating floors and furniture, scaling walls and ceilings, tunneling through the ventilation system. Before he realizes what is happening, the SWAT team storms into the room...

The above sounds like a scenario dreamed up by Steven Spielberg, but is actually created by a multidisciplinary team out of Michigan State University's College of Engineering. The team of six is collaborating on a three-year, $1.6 million grant from the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, DARPA for short, to design and build adaptable, reconfigurable micro-robots for use in law enforcement, intelligence gathering, and search and rescue.

Lal Tummala, professor of electrical engineering and manufacturing, and project coordinator, says that in a scenario such as the one described above, law enforcement officials have only a few seconds between the moment they open the door and the time in which they act. Obviously, he says, the more information they have at the time of entry, the better off they are.

The U.S. Department of Defense wants to develop a means for safe and efficient fact-finding when the environment is dangerous or inaccessible to humans. The idea is that if very small robots--no bigger than five centimeters in diameter--are equipped with cameras, thermal and infrared sensors, and microphones, they can obtain and transmit useful information about a situation before a person is required to enter the scene.

"Possibly," says Tummala, "the robots could be dropped by helicopter or shot like bullets into a building. From there, they could go about their business, gathering information without notice."

In putting together their proposal, the MSU team brainstormed numerous design ideas based upon several open-ended criteria: that the robots be manufactured inexpensively so that a large number could be dispersed and left on site, that they have excellent maneuverability and that they have the ability to communicate robot-to-robot and thus coordinate their actions. Considerations like keeping power usage to a minimum and keeping the components small enough to fit inside the five-centimeter framework provided more concrete restrictions to the group's eventual design.

The group arrived at a bipedal caterpillar-like structure that could both slink along floors and rugged terrain as well as climb vertically on stairways and walls using its suction-cup feet. According to Tummala, the use of suction to climb walls, ceilings and even glass windows was unique to Michigan State's proposal.

Dean Aslam, associate professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, is designing the suction cup feet--what he refers to as SRF's, short for "smart robotic foot." The SRF consists of a suction cup, a pressure sensor and a vacuum pump. The sensor, mounted inside the suction cup, will signal whether the pressure is at or below atmospheric pressure, if it is below, the motor in the vacuum pump will switch on, creating a vacuum within the cup.

Other distinguishing features of the micro-robots include the use of diamond coatings and sensors. Diamond coatings result in reduced friction between components, thereby lengthening battery life, and can be applied to even the most difficult-to-reach places.

Ranjan Mukherjee, associate professor of mechanical engineering, designs and builds the robot, while Ning Xi, assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, creates the task-driven controller, which maintains stability of the robot, and commands the direction of movement.

Sridhar Mahadevan, assistant professor in the computer science and engineering department, and John Weng, associate professor in the same department, will be assisting in the cognitive development of the robots.

Mahadevan will be responsible for designing a hybrid task planner, which will provide the main software interface to control the robot. The planner comprises a high-level strategic module that can be given specific tasks, such as finding a window on the second floor of the building and taking a picture, and a lower-level tactical system, which will provide basic reflex behaviors such as avoiding obstacles. Mahadevan also studies the use of group behaviors to coordinate the actions of multiple robots and examines how the robots' performance can be improved through reinforcement learning.

Weng applies the SHOSLIF technology that he and his students have developed to help the micro-robots "see" (through the use of micro-cameras) and to learn from those visual inputs. Weng also will investigate a new learning direction for robots, which he calls "developmental learning." Weng will be employing a developmental algorithm that allows the robot to learn as it experiences throughout its "life"--from "birth" through "adulthood"--in much the same way that humans learn.

MSU is one of 11 schools in the country to receive a grant under this DARPA program. A finished product will be delivered to the Department of Defense in May 2001.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Michigan State University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Michigan State University. "Robotics Team Goes "Micro" To Combat Crime, Aid Rescue Efforts." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 March 2000. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000303080559.htm>.
Michigan State University. (2000, March 3). Robotics Team Goes "Micro" To Combat Crime, Aid Rescue Efforts. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 26, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000303080559.htm
Michigan State University. "Robotics Team Goes "Micro" To Combat Crime, Aid Rescue Efforts." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2000/03/000303080559.htm (accessed July 26, 2014).

Share This




More Matter & Energy News

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Europe's Highest Train Turns 80 in French Pyrenees

Europe's Highest Train Turns 80 in French Pyrenees

AFP (July 25, 2014) Europe's highest train, the little train of Artouste in the French Pyrenees, celebrates its 80th birthday. Duration: 01:05 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

TSA Administrator on Politics and Flight Bans

AP (July 24, 2014) TSA administrator, John Pistole's took part in the Aspen Security Forum 2014, where he answered questions on lifting of the ban on flights into Israel's Tel Aviv airport and whether politics played a role in lifting the ban. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

Creative Makeovers for Ugly Cellphone Towers

AP (July 24, 2014) Mobile phone companies and communities across the country are going to new lengths to disguise those unsightly cellphone towers. From a church bell tower to a flagpole, even a pencil, some towers are trying to make a point. (July 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

Algonquin Power Goes Activist on Its Target Gas Natural

TheStreet (July 23, 2014) When The Deal's Amanda Levin exclusively reported that Gas Natural had been talking to potential suitors, the Ohio company responded with a flat denial, claiming its board had not talked to anyone about a possible sale. Lo and behold, Canadian utility Algonquin Power and Utilities not only had approached the company, but it did it three times. Its last offer was for $13 per share as Gas Natural's was trading at a 60-day moving average of about $12.50 per share. Now Algonquin, which has a 4.9% stake in Gas Natural, has taken its case to shareholders, calling on them to back its proposals or, possibly, a change in the target's board. Video provided by TheStreet
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins