DRC Trials 2013 Countdown: Anatomy of a Disaster-Response Robot

Team designs vary but incorporate similar technologies that could make robots practical and robust aides in future emergencies

The Atlas robot is an example of one of many innovative prototypes of disaster-response robots scheduled to compete in the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Trials that are taking place December 20-21 at the Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Fla.

While a number of the teams' robot designs embody different approaches, the designs also incorporate many of the same advanced technologies. Technologies include those that help the robots perceive, move through and perform tasks in simulated disaster environments, all with a human operator in the loop. The technologies also enable the robots' operators to see what the robots see and direct the robots in real time. Through the DRC, DARPA aims to advance robots' capabilities to help human responders in future emergencies.

The DRC Trials are free and open to the public. In addition to the competition, the onsite DRC Exposition will showcase technology related to disaster response, robotics and autonomy. It will include, among others, demonstrations of DARPA's "Wild Cat" (an untethered, all-terrain version of the "Cheetah" robot) and Legged Squad Support System (LS3). More information is available at www.theroboticschallenge.org.

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ST Robotics Develops the Workspace Sentry for Collaborative Robotics

ST Robotics Develops the Workspace Sentry for Collaborative Robotics

The ST Robotics Workspace Sentry robot and area safety system are based on a small module that sends an infrared beam across the workspace. If the user puts his hand (or any other object) in the workspace, the robot stops using programmable emergency deceleration. Each module has three beams at different angles and the distance a beam reaches is adjustable. Two or more modules can be daisy chained to watch a wider area. "A robot that is tuned to stop on impact may not be safe. Robots where the trip torque can be set at low thresholds are too slow for any practical industrial application. The best system is where the work area has proximity detectors so the robot stops before impact and that is the approach ST Robotics has taken," states President and CEO of ST Robotics David Sands.