Robotics

Intelligent robotics solutions have the potential to richly benefit society and improve human lives. Applications that have generated much interest among CSL faculty and their partners have included precision agriculture, public safety, inspection of construction sites, and more efficient and smarter artificial limbs, to name a few.

Our faculty come from a multitude of engineering and science fields, and they share a belief that the emergence of robotic systems that can save human lives, reduce human workloads, and increase humans’ capacity to contribute is only at its infancy. Through the observation of nature and human behavior, the development of new control and decision theories, and their creative application to pressing human needs, CSL researchers are making bold advances towards achieving the potential of intelligent robotics.

The world’s population is expected to exceed nine billion people by 2050. As a species, our impact on the environment will continue to grow, and feeding the world will require dramatic advances in agricultural practices. Promising avenues include precision agriculture that would use drones to precisely monitor crops and minimize impact on the environment. Developing drone techniques for monitoring the health of livestock and delivering medicines could translate into far more efficient food production. Those projects are examples of what CSL faculty are doing in this area with partners from around the campus and beyond.

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Humans have long been expanding their ability to build physical infrastructure in remote areas, high above us, and at remarkable depths, sometimes at great cost to human life. In CSL, researchers have explored the use of mobile robots to monitor building construction high above the ground safely and more accurately. We are also exploring the use of robots to conduct routine (and not so routine) maintenance on remote installations. The need for robots capable of operating in remote and/or dangerous conditions will only continue as we increase our reach into the ocean’s depths and into new settlements on the Moon and other planets.

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Enabling the elderly and persons with disabilities to live independent, rich, and fulfilling lives is a societal endeavor that robotics can advance on a number of important fronts. In CSL, researchers have used the latest advances in 3D printing and novel control algorithms to develop artificial limbs that are more affordable yet extremely helpful. Other CSL researchers are looking at innovative ways to integrate virtual worlds and drones to allow individuals to interact with robots and drones in a secure and safe, yet simple and intuitive way.

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There are potential uses for unmanned aerial vehicles/systems (UAV/UAS) that cannot be realized without new technological advances. UAVs currently have a limited ability to assist first responders in hazardous conditions in which the communication infrastructure is severely damaged. In both the defense theater and extensive disaster areas, swarms of specialized UASes working together in a coordinated manner -- each bringing a unique capability -- could prove very beneficial. Finally, the use of drones in our national airspace requires new advances to ensure that they can be safely operated in an environment that includes civil aircraft, no matter what conditions exist. In CSL, a diverse group of researchers are tackling the technological challenges that must be overcome to enable these advances.

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