University of Missouri researchers have developed software for a robot with a laser sensor that can enter dangerous structures to assess the structure’s stability and locate survivors.
The remote-controlled robot, built by researchers at the Missouri University of Science and Technology, is designed to remotely transport a Light Detection and Ranging unit (LIDAR) so that responders, such as police, military, firefighters, and search and rescue teams, can know more about dangerous structures before entering.
When inside the structure, the robot takes multiple scans using LIDAR that takes up to 500,000 point measurements per second. It also can scan through walls and windows. After the scans, the software forms the data points into 3D maps that can show individual objects, create floor plans and colour code areas inside the structure for stability.
Depending on the data size, the software can take half an hour to two hours to create the maps.
‘Although the software and the robot can help in emergency situations, it could be commercialised for a variety of uses,’ said Ye Duan, associate professor of Computer Science at the MU College of Engineering. ‘This system could be used for routine structure inspections, which could help prevent tragedies such as the Minneapolis bridge collapse in 2007. It also could allow the military to perform unmanned terrain acquisition to reduce wartime casualties.’
The researchers are now working on a proposal to make the robot faster and smaller than the current model, which resembles the NASA rovers sent to Mars, which weighs about 200lb.