Military mine detection technology helps robots to navigate on any roads
The military are checking the road for mines. In this case, the miniaturization of the device is not discussed.
Studies conducted by experts of the National Laboratories of the US Department of Energy, most often relate to national security. But it also happens that once military technology becomes a tool for improving the lives of ordinary citizens who are not connected with the special services or the army. It happened with one of the developments of the organization, which was modified by representatives of the startup WaveSense.
This is a technology for the remote detection of hidden mines, developed by representatives of the Lincoln Laboratory - a research institution of the US Department of Defense in the structure of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. This laboratory is engaged in research and development in the field of national defense and security.
As it turned out, the development is quite applicable to the problem of orientation on a homogeneous terrain of the mobile. Any vehicle with an automatic control system is oriented on the ground using sensors, GPS, high-resolution maps and cameras. Different manufacturers use different combinations of technology for robotic, but in most cases it is these technologies that are used.
Of course, they need to be improved, because in difficult conditions, for example, in bad weather, with snowfall, the task of assessing the terrain is much more complicated. In some cases this has led to the accident - such as a few months ago, when robomobil Uber knockedcrossing in the wrong place a cyclist in dark clothes. And for the developers of the autopilot of this vehicle, the difficult conditions in which the rover mobile found itself are not at all an excuse, since the machine control system must always be on the alert.
The snow was mentioned above - and not in vain, since the snow layer on the road makes it much more difficult for the mobile to move, since both the cameras and the lidars evaluate and analyze the reflected light. If there is snow around - then the surface albedo increases many times, and the romo mobile becomes blind. Not all systems stop working at the same time, but many.
To improve the operation of the robot system, developers from the WaveSense startup suggest installing a specialized radar under the bottom that is able to “see” everything at a certain depth. Such a radar scans everything under it to a depth of up to 3 meters. The frequency of the emitted waves - 120 Hz. As a result, the robomobil receives a clear picture of the “underworld kingdom. The markup will not help to see this, but if you create an “underground map” of public roads in advance, then robomobils will be able to use this data for problem-free orientation in the most difficult conditions. In this case, the road can be without any marking at all - the car will be oriented according to the underground marks.
Of course, the creation of this kind of radar maps takes time, but in the usual case, when simply lidars are used, the developers create similar maps of the surrounding space. The combination of the underground and ground maps has its advantages - after all, the final model of the space surrounding the car turns out to be as accurate as possible. Robo-mobile can, of course, be mistaken, but the chances will be minimal. Yes, scanning the ground to a depth of 3m does not help to avoid a collision with a pedestrian, but then the mobile will “understand” at what point in space it is at the moment and what problems may arise here.
The sensor, by the way, doesn’t cost much - according to its creators, the price is about $ 100. If we take into account the benefits that the robotic mobile gets in the end, then a hundred dollars is not so much. In addition, the technology itself is not badly worked out, since the military have been using it for years, and during this time they managed to improve it. Now the system developers are negotiating with manufacturers of robots, but it is not known exactly at what stage these negotiations are.
"Underground lidar" - an example of military technology, which migrated into a peaceful life, helping ordinary citizens. It is necessary to think that in the cities WaveSense will always be to the courtyard - after all, soon some of the settlements are planning to use robotic transport in the form of buses and robotaxi on their roads. Well, underground tags will help them navigate.