Carnegie Mellon Team Enters DARPA Autonomous Robotics Competition

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A team from Carnegie Mellon University will compete in the systems track of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s (DARPA’s) Subterranean Challenge, a multiyear robotics competition with a $2 million prize in which robots will autonomously search tunnels, caves, and underground structures.

The Carnegie Mellon team, including a key member from Oregon State University, is one of seven teams that will receive up to $4.5 million from DARPA to develop the robotic platforms, sensors, and software necessary to accomplish these unprecedented underground missions. The challenges will begin in the fall of 2019, and the final event in the fall of 2021 will combine all three types of subterranean environments.

The robots will be tasked with rapidly mapping, exploring, and exploiting complex underground environments, ranging from spaces so small that humans can only crawl through them to areas big enough to accommodate an all-terrain vehicle. The challenge is designed to provide military personnel and first responders with the capabilities they need to accomplish a variety of missions in caves, tunnels, or urban underground facilities such as subway stations.

In addition to DARPA funding, the team is receiving support from Boeing and from Near Earth Autonomy, a spinoff of the Robotics Institute.

“Successfully completing these missions will require multiple robots, including both drones and ground vehicles,” said Sebastian Scherer, team leader at CMU’s Robotics Institute.

“We can’t be sure that a four-wheeled platform will always be the right robot for every job, so we need to be ready to add wheels or substitute tracks or even legs,” said Matt Travers, the group’s second team leader. “In some environments, small robots might be our only option, while others may demand larger, more robust robots.”

Published: November 2018
BusinessCarnegie MellonOregon State UniversityDARPADefense Advanced Research Projects AgencySubterranean ChallengecompetitionSensors & DetectorsroboticsAmericaslight speed

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