IIT Researchers Develop Disaster Response Robot

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GENOA, Italy, Sept. 4, 2018 — Researchers at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT) have completed the development, assembly, and testing of the Centauro disaster response robot, a centaur-like device consisting of a four-legged base and an anthropomorphic upper body.

The robot is capable of performing robust locomotion, high-strength manipulation, and harsh interactions that may be necessary during the execution of disaster relief tasks. The Centauro robot is 1.5 m tall, while its shoulder width is 65 cm and its weight is 93 kg. It is made of aluminium, magnesium, and titanium alloys, and cover parts are made from plastic using rapid prototyping fabrication. It is battery powered and can operate for 2.5 hours.

The development of the robot is within the framework of the research project Centauro funded by the European Commission and coordinated by University of Bonn in Germany. The robot hardware, software architecture, and body control framework were completely designed and realized at IIT by the Humanoid and Human Centred Mechatronics Lab coordinated by Nikos Tsagarakis.

The Centauro project aims to realize a robotic platform that can be used in disaster scenarios and assist rescue workers to safely execute emergency tasks in hostile environments. The Centauro robot is therefore designed to navigate in affected human-made environments, thanks to its hybrid mobility skills that combine legged articulated locomotion and wheeled mobility. Its body has dimensions compatible to those needed to operate within human infrastructures; it can pass through doors and narrow corridors and traverse steps in standard stairs.

Centauro legs incorporate six degrees of freedom, providing articulated movements in the environment by rotating and extending hips, knees, and ankles, and control the wheel modules, which are placed at the ankles like rolling “hooves.” The robot can adopt different configurations, such as the typical leg configurations of quadruped robots including both inward and outward knee arrangements, and a spider leg configuration, which can be more beneficial in terms of stability required for manipulating powerful tools. Wheels allow the robot to demonstrate wheeled-based mobility also. The wheel is made of an aluminium alloy, and its outer layer is overmolded with an elastomer material, thereby ensuring visco-damped contacts while generating suitable friction when rolling on the ground surfaces.

The Centauro robot is capable of using human tools to execute manipulation tasks and can demonstrate manipulation strength capacity that is higher than that of the typical human adult. Its lightweight arms demonstrate a payload-to-weight ratio greater than 1:1. The robot perception system is located in the head and incorporates a series of sensors including a set of cameras, RGBD sensors, and a lidar scanner, which provide a spherical coverage of the environment around the robot. In addition, the robot joints incorporate high-fidelity torque-sensing and thermal-state monitoring sensors.

The robot is equipped with computation power delivered by three on-board computers dedicated to hard real-time control, high-level motion planning, and perception processing, respectively. The robot control and the data exchange in this distributed computation system are coordinated by the software framework developed by the same IIT team.

Published: September 2018
BusinessIstituto Italiano di TecnologiaIITCentauroSensors & DetectorsEuropean Commissiondisaster robotroboticsEurope

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