• Search & rescueSoft, growing robot for searching people under collapsed buildings

    Imagine rescuers searching for people in the rubble of a collapsed building. Instead of digging through the debris by hand or having dogs sniff for signs of life, they bring out a small, air-tight cylinder. They place the device at the entrance of the debris and flip a switch. From one end of the cylinder, a tendril extends into the mass of stones and dirt, like a fast-climbing vine. A camera at the tip of the tendril gives rescuers a view of the otherwise unreachable places beneath the rubble. This is just one possible application of a new type of robot – a robot that can grow across long distances without moving its whole body.

  • Nuclear sitesNextgen robots for nuclear clean-up

    The cost of cleaning up the U.K.’s existing nuclear facilities has been estimated to be between £95 billion, and £219 billion over the next 120 years or so. The harsh conditions within these facilities means that human access is highly restricted and much of the work will need to be completed by robots. Present robotics technology is simply not capable of completing many of the tasks that will be required. A research a consortium to build the next generation of robots that are more durable and perceptive for use in nuclear sites.

  • CybersecuritySerious security vulnerabilities found in home, business, industrial robots

    Researchers have identified numerous vulnerabilities in multiple home, business, and industrial robots available on the market today. The vulnerabilities identified included many graded as high or critical risk, leaving the robots susceptible to cyberattack. Once a vulnerability has been exploited, a hacker could potentially gain control of the robot for cyber espionage, turn a robot into an insider threat, use a robot to expose private information, or cause a robot to perform unwanted actions when interacting with people, business operations, or other robots. In the most extreme cases, robots could be used to cause serious physical damage and harm to people and property.

  • Border securityRobotic lie detector for border, aviation security

    When you engage in international travel, you may one day find yourself face-to-face with border security that is polite, bilingual and responsive — and robotic. The Automated Virtual Agent for Truth Assessments in Real Time (AVATAR) is currently being tested in conjunction with the Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA) to help border security agents determine whether travelers coming into Canada may have undisclosed motives for entering the country.

  • Search & rescueRemote-control skillful rescue robot demonstrated

    Researchers have developed a prototype construction robot for disaster relief situations. This prototype has drastically improved operability and mobility compared to conventional construction machines.

  • Infrastructure protectionEnergy-efficient dyke-inspection robots

    There are many dykes in the Netherlands, and their structural health must be continuously monitored. Inspecting the condition of dykes and other sea defense structures is typically a task for robots, working in a team and in a highly autonomous way. But if they move around across the dykes, perform tests, and communicate the results for six hours a day, they use a lot of energy. Introducing charging stations is not a realistic scenario. A Dutch researcher had a better idea: an innovative automatic gearbox or the robots, which uses two metal hemispheres instead of a belt drive.

  • Autonomous maritime vehiclesU.S. Navy, allies taking part in first-ever Unmanned Warrior joint exercise

    Autonomy and unmanned systems experts from across the naval science and technology (S&T) community will converge on the shores of the United Kingdom next month for the first-ever Unmanned Warrior joint exercise hosted by the British Royal Navy. The U.S. Navy contingent will experiment with ten technology projects to push the limits of maritime autonomous systems in real-world, challenging operational environments.

  • Food securityRobot, drones to help collect crop testing data to bolster agricultural production

    A rumbling robot and several high-flying drones recently made an on-site appearance at Clemson University to burrow through and buzz above fifteen acres of experimental sorghum plots containing more than 2,800 replicated entries. The space-age devices are part of a collaborative project with Clemson University and other partners designed to significantly enhance the ease and frequency of data collection for crop testing in ways that will eventually benefit all agricultural production in South Carolina and around the world.

  • RoboSubsYoung engineers compete for RoboSubs

    After months of planning, building, programming, testing, and tweaking, it all came to down to this one moment — the 19th annual International RoboSub Competition, held in San Diego, California, 25-30 July.

    Forty-six teams competed in this year’s event. The robotics contest challenges students to design, build and race submarines through a complex obstacle course, where points are awarded for the number and difficulty of successfully completed mission tasks.

  • RobotsSwimming, crawling, climbing robot to help in security, search & rescue missions

    Researchers have developed the first single actuator wave-like robot (SAW). SAW can climb over obstacles or crawl through unstable terrain like sand, grass, and gravel, reaching a top speed of 22.5 inches. The robot will be useful for traveling through the intestine for imaging and biopsies, and for infiltrating problematic, complex security areas, such as tunnels, destroyed buildings, and pipes.

  • RoboBoatsThe future of naval force and RoboBoats

    The future of naval engineering was on display earlier this month, as thirteen teams of high school and college students did battle at the ninth annual RoboBoat Competition in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The competition is a robotics contest where teams program their student-built autonomous surface vehicles to navigate through a series of water-based challenges.

  • Killer robotsLosing control: The dangers of killer robots

    By Bonnie Docherty

    New technology could lead humans to relinquish control over decisions to use lethal force. As artificial intelligence advances, the possibility that machines could independently select and fire on targets is fast approaching. Fully autonomous weapons, also known as “killer robots,” are quickly moving from the realm of science fiction toward reality. While the process of creating international law is notoriously slow, countries can move quickly to address the threats of fully autonomous weapons. They should seize the opportunity presented by the Convention on Conventional Weapons review conference, to be held this December, because the alternative is unacceptable: Allowing technology to outpace diplomacy would produce dire and unparalleled humanitarian consequences.

  • RoboticsHazardous-devices teams compete at the Robot Rodeo, 14-17 June

    Hazardous-devices teams from around the Southwest will wrangle their bomb-squad robots at the tenth annual Robot Rodeo beginning Tuesday, 14 June, at Los Alamos National Laboratory. “The Robot Rodeo gives bomb-squad teams the opportunity to practice and hone their skills in a lively but low-risk setting,” said a member of the Laboratory’s hazardous-devices team.

  • Infrastructure protectionRobot offers safer, more efficient way to inspect power lines

    Currently, line crews have to suit up in protective clothing, employ elaborate safety procedures, and sometimes completely shut off the power before inspecting a power line. It can be difficult, time-consuming, and often dangerous work. Researchers have invented a robot which could change the way power lines are inspected — providing a safer and more cost-effective alternative.

  • Killer robotsPressure mounts to keep human control over killer robots

    Fully autonomous weapons would go a step beyond existing remote-controlled drones as they would be able to select and engage targets without human intervention. Although these weapons do not exist yet, the rapid movement of technology from human “in-the-loop” weapons systems toward “out-of-the-loop” systems is attracting international attention and concern. Countries should retain meaningful human control over weapons systems and ban fully autonomous weapons, also known as “killer robots,” Human Rights Watch and the Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic said in a new report. The concept of meaningful human control will be a centerpiece of deliberations at a week-long multilateral meeting on the weapons, opening 11 April 2016, at the United Nations in Geneva.