ITEE engineers steering robotics toward 4.0 Tuesday, 09 April 2019

Australian engineers are working on "highly autonomous robotics systems" that can interact with humans in challenging indoor and outdoor environments, including subterranean.

The revelation came as CSIRO Data61 Robotics and Autonomous Systems group leader, Fred Pauling, spoke at the opening of the organisation's new Robotics Innovation Centre in Queensland, which is looking to hire more engineers. Data61 already has capabilities that include robots with legs, 3D mapping, Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs).

“Our robots are already being used to safely inspect and create 3D maps of underground mines, monitor biodiversity in the Amazon Rainforest and navigate difficult terrain in emergency situations," Mr Pauling said.

One project spearheaded by the new robotics centre is the testing of technology to rapidly map, navigate, and search underground environments. This project is part of a three-year Subterranean Challenge funded by the United States' Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

Data 61 Robotics and Autonomous Systems is pairing its ultra-light legged robots with our Hovermap GPS-denied drone autonomy technology to create a robot team that can rapidly explore and map challenging underground environments. The aim is to provide unprecedented situational awareness in time-critical scenarios.

The Robotics Innovation Centre, based in Brisbane's west, houses the biggest motion capture system in the Southern Hemisphere, according to Data61, which is used to validate data collected by robotics systems. It also features a pool for testing aquatic robots, a significant number of field-deployable UAVs and UGVs, legged robots, high-accuracy robot manipulators as well as sensors and telemetry systems.

In the future, Data 61 CEO, Adrian Turner, believes robotics and autonomous systems technologies, underpinned by machine learning and artificial intelligence, will unlock new value in a range of sectors including mining, manufacturing, agriculture and healthcare.

But a cohesive approach, he said, will be required to support robotics R&D through closer collaboration to ensure Australia is well-placed to benefit from Industry 4.0. Also known as the fourth industrial revolution, this covers cyber-physical systems, the Internet of Things (IoT), cloud computing and cognitive computing.

Dr Sue Keay was recently appointed Research Director of Cyber-Physical Systems at Data61. A 'Superstar of STEM', Dr Keay's remit involves leading more than 150 researchers working on micro-sensing, signal processing, communication systems, distributed sensor systems, robotics, networks and smart vision.

Want to get involved? There is currently a range of software engineering roles open at Data 61's Robotics and Autonomous Systems.


Image: (L-R) Data61 DARPA Project Manager Erin McColl and Cyber-Physical Systems Research Director Sue Keay with a hexapod robot from Ghost Robotics being trialled for the DARPA challenge. Source: CSIRO.