Vision-rich robot wins UK Grand Challenge

OCTOBER 20, 2008--A robot developed by Cranfield University has won the prestigious MOD Grand Challenge -- a competition to develop autonomous robots to safely detect potential hazards to the troops on the battlefield.

OCTOBER 20, 2008--A robot developed byCranfield University has won the prestigious MOD Grand Challenge -- a competition to develop autonomous robots to safely detect potential hazards to the troops on the battlefield. The competition, staged by the UK Ministry of Defence, took place over three days at Copehill Down village on Salisbury Plain built for urban warfare training exercises. GBP4.5 million was earmarked by the MOD to stage the competition and to invest in further developing the best of these technologies for the battlefield.

See thevideo shown on BBC Channel Five's Gadget Show.

The challenge was to remotely and robotically identify snipers, IEDs (Improvised Explosive Devices), heavy weapons, and enemy patrols before sending in troops. One hour was given to each of the ten teams to complete the challenge.

The winners were Team Stellar, a collaboration of small companies and academics fromCranfield University, who used a mini-tank robot mounted with radar and visible-light sensors, and a MIRICLE 110K thermal imaging camera from Thermoteknix Systems (Cambridge, UK; www.thermoteknix.com).

The judges presented the winners with the R.J Mitchell Trophy, named after the designer of the WWII Spitfire fighter plane that earned its legendary status for its role in the Battle of Britain. The MOD will now consider the team's robots for further development, potentially leading to use in real frontline combat situations by the Armed Forces.

Cranfield engineer Dr Toby Breckon said, "Over the last year we have all put in a great deal of effort into developing the technology, but I believe our success as a team is due to our unique mix of expertise, spanning business, industry and academia.

"The competition has been tough, but we are delighted, both to have won, and to be one step further towards helping our troops stay safer and become better prepared to deal with potential threats encountered on overseas operations."

Cranfield's input into Team Stellar has involved the creation of computer-based software for automatic target recognition and coordination of vehicle guidance and execution. Blue Bear Systems Research Limited designed both UAV systems and their associated control and avionics systems, and SELEX Galileo is involved with overall system integration and development of the project's ground control station. Stellar Research Services put the team together and lead the team, while Marshall SDG provided the UGV, and TRW Conekt designed the route guidance, obstacle, and threat sensors for the UGV.

More in Boards & Software