The University of Coimbra’s Institute of Systems and Robotics is working diligently to automate the extremely dangerous and manual job of clearing minefields for humanitarian demining efforts. Canadian robotics makers, Clearpath Robotics, sponsored the project by providing the mobile robotic base.
“Minesweeping is an extremely dangerous and time-intensive process,” said Lino Marques, Senior Lecturer at the University of Coimbra, and academic liaison for the project. “Robots do not get tired; they can be extremely thorough performing their jobs, and their cost is infinitely smaller than that of a human life. For these reasons, robots are a perfect solution for the minesweeping problem.”
The group at University of Coimbra set out to accomplish three key tasks with their mobile robot: Perceive terrain characteristics, navigate across the terrain, and utilize the vehicle to detect and localize landmines. The first round of field tests in 2013 was interrupted due to issues with their custom robotic arm. Once adjustments are in place, a second round of field tests will take place (expected mid-2014).
“We are very proud to be supporters of Dr. Marques’ humanitarian research into demining robotics.” said Matt Rendall, CEO at Clearpath Robotics. “Clearpath Robotics was originally founded with a focus to clear landmines using a swarm of small mobile robots – that’s how we got our name – so it’s very exciting for us to work with the University of Coimbra to advance this incredibly noble research.”
The mobile robotic base was outfitted with navigation and localization sensors, ground penetration radar, and a custom robotic arm with an attached metal detector. The entirety of the robot is designed with open source software using the Robot Operating System (ROS).
The group received the mobile base, known as Husky Unmanned Ground Vehicle, as part of the 2012 Partnerbot Grant Program, inaugurated to support advancement in robotics research. Within the Partnerbot program, the group was also named winners of the Special Award for Humanitarian Contribution.