Even robots have dreams of winning gold – and now Australia has a chance at the DARPA Subterranean Challenge.
This week, six Australian robots will compete in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Subterranean challenge in the US, in hopes of carving their name into the history of underground search and rescue.
“In the world of robotics, these challenges are like our Olympics,” says Navinda Kottege, who leads the team.
The robots are called Rat and Bear (track robots), Bluey and Bingo (four-legged robots) and H1 and H2 (flying drones)– and we can’t forget about Kitten, who helped with testing.
The autonomous robots from CSIRO’s Data61 team will compete against seven other teams as they map, navigate and search three subterranean ‘obstacle courses’ in Kentucky, US.
Each challenge is designed to simulate real world scenarios. The robots must work together to find models representing lost or injured people, suspicious backpacks or phones, or navigate tough conditions such as pockets of gas.
Only one human will be allowed to talk to the robots, and they robot team must make their own decisions if they lose communication from being deep underground.
Breakthroughs achieved during the last three years of development can push real-world applications, such as in search and rescue, mining and agriculture.
“Having a fleet of driving, walking and flying robots that are achieving complex missions autonomously and collaboratively is a major technological milestone and an important step towards using autonomous systems for saving lives and helping people,” says Farid Kendoul, CTO and co-founder of Emesent, who worked closely with CSIRO to develop two of the drone.
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The winner will receive $2 million USD to continue research and development.
Regardless of the outcome, the (human) development team as made some incredible technology by taking part in the challenge.
“It’s been a challenging journey but along the way we developed some pretty amazing technology that we are pretty proud of,” says Kottege.
Good luck team Australia!
Deborah Devis is a science journalist at Cosmos. She has a Bachelor of Liberal Arts and Science (Honours) in biology and philosophy from the University of Sydney, and a PhD in plant molecular genetics from the University of Adelaide.
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