The roving, walking robotic soldiers of the “Terminator” films are becoming less sci-fi, and more certain future every day. Now, a team of robotics researchers from the Virginia Tech College of Engineering will build a team of fully autonomous cooperative battle-ready robots as part of a 2010 international war games challenge that could spur real-life battle bots.
The 2010 Multi-Autonomous Ground-robotic International Challenge (MAGIC)
The top three winners will get cash prizes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the chance to work with Australian and United States defense agencies to develop their robotic designs that one day may work alongside – and instead of – soldiers in future wars. Co-hosting the international competition are the U.S. Army Tank Automotive Research Development and Engineering Center and the Australian Department of Defense’s Defense Science and Technology Organization. The American unit is the core ground robotics development agency for the U.S. Department of Defense.
“We’ll have multiple small fully autonomous ground vehicles working together,” said project team member Dennis Hong
Leading the team, which includes graduate and undergraduate students, is Tomonari Furukawa
“We have a group of talented students who are very competitive, and that helps in situations such as this one,” Furukawa added. “The multidisciplinary approach to both the team members and the faculty advisers give our team an extra edge. Dennis Hong’s experience in the DARPA Urban Challenge
Working with Furukawa and Hong on the challenge are fellow College of Engineering faculty members Andrew Kurdila
As each of the 10 team heads toward the November 2010 robotic war game in Australia, they will be visited at their home campus by MAGIC organizers for preliminary tests of the robots. Organizers will then cut the roster of 10 to five. In addition to seed money of $50,000, the Australian-American agencies will provide successive funding to finalists, Hong said. In additional seed money, Virginia Center for Autonomous Systems director Craig Woolsey
Final prizes, in addition to the coup of directly working with defense agencies, are $750,000 for first place, $250,000 for second place, and $100,000 for third place. (All amounts equal U.S. dollars.)
The final competition in Australia is expected to be three hours long, with the three robots handling one set goal each – one will jam “enemy” signals, the other will detect and differentiate “enemy” targets from friendly non-targets using sensors, and the third will have a laser weapon to “paint” targets. The mission will be based on a treasure hunt, with some target objects being stationary, while others will be mobile, Furukawa said.
The team, thus far, plans to re-engineer several high-end remote-controlled trucks and tanks for autonomous operation. While Hong will focus on the design of the robot hardware, while Leonessa will work on the integration of all actuators and onboard sensors and design the basic control systems, and Furukawa and Kurdila will develop the cooperative control strategy software. “The robots must be able to drive autonomously and communicate with each other. They must think for themselves and cooperate with each other to work,” Furukawa said. “That is the biggest challenge.”
The College of Engineering
Read related stories on accomplishments in robotic competitions:
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==> “Team wins international competition with robots designed to save lives of construction workers”
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