• In the trenchesRobots to pull wounded soldiers off battlefield

    Most Americans have seen at least one war movie, where at some point a fresh-faced young private is hit with some shrapnel. From the ground, he calls out for the unit medic — another young guy, from another small town, whose quick reaction and skill just may save his life. In the near future, however, it may no longer be another soldier, who comes running to his side. Instead, it might be an Army-operated unmanned aerial or ground vehicle.

  • Unmanned maritime systemsU.S. Navy champions unmanned systems over, on, and under the sea

    The presence of unmanned systems in the maritime military domain is growing, and the U.S. Navy has decided to make several organizational, and conceptual, changes in order to deal with unmanned systems in a more holistic fashion. Rear Adm. Robert P. Girrier has been named the Navy’s first director of unmanned weapon systems, and Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus announced in April that he would appoint a new Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Unmanned Systems, “so that all aspects of unmanned — in all domains — over, on and under the sea and coming from the sea to operate on land — will be coordinated and championed.”

  • Unmanned maritime systemsFlorida teens hold their own in challenging maritime robotics competitions

    For the past three years, Team S.S. Minnow from Florida – consisting of Nick Serle, 15, and Abby Butka, 14 – has been competing against some of the finest technical universities in the world via the SeaPerch, RoboSub, and RoboBoat robotic competitions, all cosponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR). “I’ve seen Nick and Abby rise through these contests and become fierce competitors,” said Kelly Cooper, a program officer in ONR’s Sea Warfare and Weapons Department. “It is success stories like theirs that motivate us to support these competitions.”

  • CybersecurityDHS S&T licenses third cybersecurity innovation for commercialization

    The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) yesterday announced that another cybersecurity technology has been licensed for commercialization. This is S&T’s third technology that has successfully gone through the Transition to Practice (TTP) program and into the commercial market. The Network Mapping System (NeMS), developed by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, is a software-based tool that tells users what is connected to their network so that they know what needs to be protected.

  • RoboticsRoboBoats compete for water supremacy

    In a race for points, honor and cash, sixteen teams — from the United States and as far away as Indonesia, Taiwan, and South Korea — hit the water with custom-built autonomous surface vehicles (ASVs) at the eighth annual RoboBoat Competition, held 7-12 July in Virginia Beach, Virginia. The competition is an autonomous robotics contest where teams put their student-built ASVs through a series of challenges.

  • FirefightingRobots on reins to be the “eyes” of firefighters in dark, smoke-filled buildings

    Currently, even when they have a map of the building, firefighters have to grope their way forward if smoke has badly affected visibility, feeling their way along a wall or following ropes laid by the first firefighter on the scene. But with only twenty minutes of oxygen per firefighter, there is a real need for any innovation that can help them move more quickly and easily. Now, firefighters moving through smoke-filled buildings will save vital seconds and find it easier to identify objects and obstacles, thanks to revolutionary reins that enable robots to act like guide dogs.

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  • FirefightingFirefighting humanoid robot shows its skills

    In fall 2014 in Mobile Bay, Alabama, Virginia Tech engineering students made history during a five-minute demo that placed an adult-sized humanoid robot with a hose in front of a live fire aboard a U.S. Navy ship. The robot located the fire and sprayed water from the hose. Water blasted the flames. The demo, four years in the making, is part of a new effort by the U.S. Navy to better assist sailors in fighting fires, controlling damage, and carrying out inspections aboard ships via user-controlled unmanned craft or humanoid robots.


  • RoboticsDisaster relief robots compete at DARPA Robotics Challenge

    Twenty four teams from around the world have just competed in Pomona, California for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA) Robotics Challenge, which runs various rescue robot platforms through a vigorous series of tests to learn and develop better systems. DARPA has made the competition even harder for competing teams. The robots could not operate with power chords, meaning that heavy batteries had to be on the board. Also, there could not be safety pumpers or tools for bipedal robots, which still struggled with balance issues. “In a real disaster, there are no ropes to hold you up. The robots have to drive a car to the door, but the hardest part of the ride is getting out of the vehicle without falling,” said Gill Pratt, program manager of the challenge.

  • RoboticsWinners of DARPA Robotics Challenge Finals announced

    “May the best robot win” has been a frequently uttered phrase throughout the DARPA Robotics Challenge (DRC) Finals, held this Friday and Saturday at the Fairplex in Pomona, California. After years of research and development, several intense days of preparation at the competition site, a day of rehearsal and two full days of head-to-head competition in front of thousands of spectators, the verdict is in, and three winners were announced Saturday. The Robotics Challenge was launched in response to a humanitarian need that became glaringly clear during the nuclear disaster at Fukushima, Japan, in 2011. The DARPA Robotics Challenge consisted of three increasingly demanding competitions over two years. The goal was to accelerate progress in robotics and hasten the day when robots have sufficient dexterity and robustness to enter areas too dangerous for humans and mitigate the impacts of natural or man-made disasters.

  • First response robotsRobots to the rescue in disaster situations

    Real-life disaster scenarios have awakened the robotics community to the limitations of existing emergency-response robots. EU-funded researchers are redoubling efforts to ensure that disaster response robots can better support rescue workers in future emergencies. Research in the lab and on-site simulations have helped in improving the capabilities of emergency-response robots in recent years. When real disaster strikes unexpected, however, complications lay bare the limitations of test scenarios. In light of the lessons learned following the Fukushima nuclear accident, researchers are following a range of different pathways to advance emergency-response robotics.

  • Virtual shooterDHS S&T completes Virtua Shooter robotic device, delivers it to ICE

    The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) the other day announced the successful completion of a robotic device that tests multiple types of handguns and ammunition. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents will use the device to supplement manual testing of the weapons by laboratory staff.

  • RoboticsNon-traditional roboticists to help bolster national security

    The past ten years have seen an explosion of robotics advances from small businesses and individuals, thanks in part to lower manufacturing costs and the global rise of community workshops such as makerspaces and hackerspaces, which serve as incubators for rapid, low-cost collaboration and innovation. Unfortunately, the small-scale robotics community has tended to fly under the radar of traditional federal agencies and commercial technology providers, which generally rely on multi-year, multi-million-dollar contracts for technology development. DARPA’s Robotics Fast Track foresees cost-effective development of new capabilities by engaging cutting-edge groups and individuals who traditionally have not worked with the federal government.

  • CybersecurityResearchers hack a teleoperated surgical robot, revealing security flaws

    Real-world teleoperated robots, which are controlled by a human who may be in another physical location, are expected to become more commonplace as the technology evolves. They are ideal for situations which are dangerous for people: fighting fires in chemical plants, diffusing explosive devices or extricating earthquake victims from collapsed buildings. Researchers conducted a series of experiments in which they hacked a next generation teleoperated surgical robot — one used only for research purposes — to test how easily a malicious attack could hijack remotely controlled operations in the future and to make those systems more secure.

  • RoboticsBomb squads compete at Sandia Labs’ Robot Rodeo

    Robots are life-saving tools for the nation’s hazardous device teams, providing a buffer between danger and first responders. Beginning this past Monday, Sandia Lab hosted its ninth annual Western National Robot Rodeo and Capability Exercise at Sandia National Laboratories. The five-day event – 11-15 May — offers a challenging platform for civilian and military bomb squad teams to practice defusing dangerous situations with robots’ help. 

  • Killer robotsGrowing worries about proliferation of “killer robots”

    Fully autonomous weapons have not yet been developed, but technology is moving toward increasing autonomy. Such weapons would select and engage targets without further intervention by a human. Governments are increasingly recognizing the potential dangers posed by these fully autonomous weapons, and during a meeting last week, numerous governments expressed support for the need to ensure meaningful human control over targeting and attack decisions in warfare.