Aerial drones have been in use for creating terrain plots for some time. Their accessibility and aerial presence means that they can generate 3D projections of the terrain that can later be used by soldiers or other trained personnel to carry out missions. However, for the first time, a combination of such mapping robot and a walking quadruped robot has been used. The aerial robot first maps the terrain including all the obstacles, and the ground-based one follows a predetermined path selected by the aerial drone.
Conducted at the ETH Zurich Research Institute, a quadcopter drone mapped a room and then provided the four-legged ground robot with a path to follow which it did with precision. The test room consisted of an uneven surface as well as various obstacles present in between the starting point and the goal. First, the drone used onboard sensing equipment and downward facing cameras to create a high-resolution elevation map of the entire area. Then, an Artificial Intelligence software analyzed the terrain for surface roughness, step height as well as general incline of the terrain. After analyzing it, a suitable path was projected on the path and it was then relayed to the ground-robot.
The quadruped robot was also equipped with cutting-edge sensing technology to determine its path and prevent it from straying away from the area. The LIDAR radar present inside was key to its positioning and thus it reached the target with no human interference or control at all. An entirely autonomous operation!
This combination of an aerial and terrain-based robot will lead us to completely automated missions to be carried out by robots in real life situations. No doubt, this new approach will be used by the military to take part in sensitive operations and reduce the need for human operatives. In a similar experience, the US Army also used a full-sized autonomous helicopter first to drop a wheeled robot to a deployment point, and afterward, the robot made it to the destination on its own.
These autonomous missions, however, may pave the way for Skynet to take over the world as well! How can we stop it from getting control?