U.S. robot teams set for Aussie face-off
Canberra, Australia (UPI) Aug 6, 2010
Three teams from the United States are among six finalists whose robots will go head-to-head in a joint U.S.-Australia multimillion-dollar design challenge.
The six teams are competing in the Multi-autonomous Ground-robotic International Challenge -- MAGIC 2010 -- set up last summer by the Australian and United States defense departments.
MAGIC 2010 aims to develop next-generation unmanned ground vehicle systems for deployment in extreme military operations where there is a high threat to soldiers' lives.
To complete the MAGIC challenge the unarmed robots must accurately and completely explore and map the challenge area, locate, classify and recognize all simulated threats, within 3 1/2 hours.
The U.S. teams are RASR, Team Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania. The other teams are Cappadocia from Turkey, Chiba from Tokyo and Magician from Australia.
RASR -- Reconnaissance and Autonomy for Small Robots Team -- is led by Robotics Research with industry partners General Dynamics Robotic Systems, Qinetiq-NA, Del Services, Cedar Creek Defense University, Carnegie Mellon Robotics Institute, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the University of Michigan.
The separate Team Michigan entry comprises SoarTech with research support from the University of Michigan.
The University of Pennsylvania entry is in conjunction with BAE Systems.
American input is also present in Team Cappadocia headed by the Turkish military electronics company ASELSAN. The team includes Bilkent University, Bogazici University, Middle East Technical University -- all from Turkey - and Ohio State University through its Control & Intelligent Transportation Research Lab.
The home Australian team of MAGICIAN comprises University of Western Australia with its Robotics and Automation Laboratory, Flinders University through its Artificial Intelligence and Intelligent Systems Laboratories, Edith Cowan University's Artificial Intelligence and Software Engineering Cluster, Thales Australia's Naval Division and ILLIARC.
Japan's entry of CHIBA is led by Chiba University and Japanese firm Analytical Software.
The final showdown will be Nov. 8-13 at the Royal Showground in Adelaide, South Australia.
"These teams are at the forefront of robotics technology," Australia's Acting Chief Defense Scientist Warren Harch said. "They have survived a rigorous assessment and elimination process against six other semifinalist teams."
U.S. Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center Director Grace Bochenek said the competition fosters international cooperation.
"We hope to inspire the next generation of researchers," she said. "We are always seeking good ideas and fresh perspectives. This challenge is a win-win. We are investing in solutions that will make our soldiers stronger through technology."
Each team must field at least three robots and accomplish a complex task involving mapping and identification of threats while demonstrating a high level of autonomy between the robots.
"We want to move from the current paradigm of one man-one robot to one man and many robots," Harch said.
The robot missions will be more surveillance than combat and they will seek to detect dangers such as mines, chemical weapons, human movement and also perform complete visual scanning of battle areas.
They will be the land equivalent of the increasingly popular remotely piloted and unmanned airplanes, such as the Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk now used in combat zones. Less sophisticated versions of the so-called drone planes have civilian applications such as for reconnaissance within extensive forest fire areas.
Each of the six teams will be given around $46,000 to help them complete their final preparations.
But the really big money will come from design patents and sales to military, civilian emergency organizations and large industrial groups. It also is likely that all the finalists will benefit from this financially, a U.S. defense department official said last summer at the launch of MAGIC.
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