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Research and Academics
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Can Drones, Self-Driving Cars Work Together?
A helicopter drone and driverless car are surveying a contaminated area for a Carnegie Mellon University project.
By Judith Pfeffer - Filed Jun 12, 2014

More Research and Academics stories
What's better than one robot? Two robots, especially when they combine the best of air and ground technology and keep humans safe.

Scientists are now testing whether drones and self-driving cars can cooperate to survey a dangerous territory, working currently in a hypothetical scenario involving environmental toxins.

VentureBeat reports that the effort combines a self-piloting version of a Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopter and a driverless off-road vehicle - a souped-up Land Tamer with sensors and computers from the U.S. Army's Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center (TARDEC). This will be its first outing paired with a drone whose radar and computer systems let it take off and land autonomously regardless of weather conditions.

The report says "The success of the program has broad implications for civilian, military, and law enforcement applications," adding that "a pilotless helicopter and a driverless car working under the same aegis is rare."

Carnegie Mellon University, through its National Robotics Engineering Center (NREC), is doing the 18-month study, says military veteran Jeremy Searock, a program manager for the NREC.

This represents an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) "to autonomously work together to accomplish a mission only possible as a team," Searock says.

Here is how it is supposed to go: The Black Hawk will tote the Land Tamer in an enormous sling underneath it to a remote site; once the car has been dropped off, it will evaluate the fake contaminated area as the chopper returns to base.

According to an article from CMU's website: "The UGV will then traverse the rugged site, using its on-board sensors to survey for chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear contamination. All of this will occur out of direct sight, without human intervention and without putting human lives at risk."

The final test will be in autumn of 2015 at Sikorsky's huge testing facility in Florida.


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