The ROBDEKON consortium is researching cross-sectional technologies for decontamination scenarios in five so-called core projects. New concepts and technologies for the implementation of advanced capabilities for robotic systems for decontamination are being developed in close cooperation with industry and users.
Unstructured, hazardous environments place high demands on the robotic systems used. Both locomotion in rough terrain and complex manipulation tasks pose a great challenge. For the various decontamination tasks, mobile robots (wheeled or tracked vehicles as well as walking robots), single and double-armed manipulators (industrial robots, construction machines) as well as climbing robots based on vacuum suction technology will be employed.
Within the scope of this core project, novel robot platforms for decontamination will be designed and existing demonstrators will be extended by important capabilities. The focus will be on both robotic carrier platforms and special manipulators. The work includes the conception of the hardware as well as the development of low-level algorithms.
Decontamination work requires highly specific skills for the robotic systems used. Typical tasks are the disassembly of components during the dismantling of nuclear facilities, e.g. the cutting of pipes, as well as the milling of contaminated wall layers and the handling of radioactive substances and waste. In the field of contaminated site remediation, the removal of contaminated soil layers and the retrieval of hazardous substances are of particular interest.
In this core project, advanced technologies for robot-assisted decontamination are developed. The focus is on the actual decontamination operation and the required tools. In order to get people out of the danger zone, the robotic systems must be able to take over as many of the complex handling tasks normally performed by humans as possible. However, it is also important to take a holistic view of the deployment of robotic systems, since contamination can itself turn them into hazardous goods, which in turn must be decontaminated or disposed of properly. Therefore, this core project considers the entire life cycle of decontamination robots.
Due to the variability of the environment, fully autonomous environmental exploration and decontamination is in many cases not feasible. However, to avoid that people have to put themselves in danger by entering the contaminated areas, tele-operated control of the robots is required.
In this core project, technologies for telepresence and virtual/augmented reality are being developed that offer the operator an immediate, immersive 3D impression of the robot's environment. Intuitive control options for the various robotic systems are also of great importance; here, in particular, the haptic feedback of occurring forces is considered, which can be realized e.g. via an exoskeleton, but the development of assistance functions for the semi-autonomous execution of decontamination work is also an important component.
As the degree of autonomy of robots increases, the detection of the environment becomes more and more important. The detection of unstructured environments poses great challenges for sensor technology and algorithms. In addition to the geometric perception of the environment, the robot-based detection of hazardous substances and radiation measurement also play a major role.
In this core project, targeted technologies for the detection of the robot's environment in decontamination scenarios are being developed. This includes the acquisition of information which the robot needs to perform its intended task as well as the detection and measurement of hazardous substances. The aim is to develop new technologies that go far beyond the current state of the art in order to meet the high demands on the precision of mapping and localisation as they are present in the decontamination context. The robotic systems will be enabled to generate a hazardous material map of an area or a radiation map of a building semi-autonomously.
In this core project, advanced technologies are developed for planning tasks in the context of decontamination work. This concerns logistics as well as the movement of robots in unstructured environments and when manipulating objects.
The aim is to develop a 3D planning tool for logistics, simulation, evaluation and documentation of the decontamination task. On the basis of the 3D environment model, sequence and deployment plans can be created and transport routes optimized. In addition, procedures and algorithms for motion planning for robots in unstructured environments will be developed. This includes robot-independent planning algorithms for automated area-wide radiation measurement and exploration as well as robot-specific path planning algorithms taking into account the vehicle kinematics for special robots such as construction machines or tasks such as the deployment of climbing robots. Furthermore, methods for grasping and manipulation planning for decontamination tasks are developed.