Thursday, March 17, 2005
Maybe there's been a less intimidating guard drone developed by the U.S. military. But I haven't seen it, yet. The ROBART III is the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center's prototype for a mechanical rent-a-cop replacement -- designed to detect intruders, and pop 'em with a "pneumatically powered six-barrel Gatling-style weapon that fires simulated tranquilizer darts or rubber bullets." In development since 1992, ROBART III uses "head-mounted sensors, includ[ing] two Polaroid sonar transducers, a Banner near-infrared proximity sensor, an AM Sensors microwave motion detector, and a video surveillance camera" to spot infiltrators. But what happens when the bot finds its foes -- well, I'm guessing ROBART's creators haven't thought that far ahead. Faced with a contraption that looks like a cross between Johnny Five, 2XL, and ROM Spaceknight, only the most timid of trespassers would be scared off by the machine, you'd figure. Maybe that'll change, when ROBART's new helpers come on line. In a new research thrust, drone-builders at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center are looking to put together "a group of slave robots that would follow ROBART III into a building and be deployed at strategic locations to serve as communication relays, rearguard lookouts, expendable point men... preventing an intruder from playing 'hide-and-seek' with ROBART III."
ROBART III's head-mounted sensors include two Polaroid sonar transducers, a Banner near-infrared proximity sensor, an AM Sensors microwave motion detector, and a video surveillance camera. The output of the CCD camera is broadcast to the operator over an analog RF link and simultaneously fed to an onboard video motion detector that provides azimuthal data allowing the head pan-axis controller to automatically track a moving target. A non-lethal-response weapon chosen for incorporation into the system consists of a pneumatically powered dart gun capable of firing a variety of 3/16-inch diameter projectiles. A group of slave robots would follow ROBART III into a building and be deployed at strategic locations to serve as communication relays, rearguard lookouts, expendable point men, or part of a distributed sensor network, preventing an intruder from playing "hide-and-seek" with ROBART III. A fleet of ten Lynxmotion Hexapod II walking robots (six-legged, twelve-servo hexapods featuring two degrees-of-freedom per leg) are currently used to illustrate the feasibility of the master/slave network. The small slave robots perform collision-avoidance, wall-following, and doorway-detection routines using algorithms similar to those running on ROBART III. For all other tasks, the slaves react to information that has been gathered and preprocessed by ROBART III.