Robot Environmentalism

March 22, 2012 at 8:53 am Leave a comment

Welcome back!

I hope everyone had a great spring break. I can’t believe how fast this semester has flown by, but I thank each and every one of you for keeping up with the blog.

This week I wanted to share with everyone a very interesting use of robots by Vijay Kumar highlighted on Mashable. He is the deputy dean of the University of Pennsylvania and has invented a revolutionary palm size robot. Kumar calls the robot the quadrotor. In a recent demo at TED Talks, Kumar explained how the robots can act independently to solve complex problems (see the video below). The tiny robots span approximately 8 inches across and can fit in the palm of your hand. The uses of the autonomous robots is unlimited, but Kumar and his colleges have determined that the most effective use includes scanning disaster zones and protecting deforestation in Brazil.

http://ted.com/talks/view/id/1376

Currently, many drone robots fly over the rainforest to protect against drug trafficking, but these drones must be controlled by humans. Kumar’s creation has the ability to operate independent from human operation.vThe robots are also extremely agile and this has been a recent focus for Kumar. As the vision was to use the robot in areas with a ever changing environment, mobility is crucial to their success. The rotor blades on the robot allow them to either hover or travel vertically if all of the blades rotate at the same speed. In contrast, the robot can make very quick maneuvers if the blades move at different speeds. Currently, the robot is capable of changing its blade speed 600 times per second which allows it to be very adaptable to any environment.

Another interesting feature of the robots is their ability to work as a team. This is no central communication method for the robots. In fact, they do not communicate in anyway when performing a particular task. Each robot is provided a general idea of how to complete a task, but has the ability to learn how to work with other robots to complete the task. Kumar’s team was inspired by how ants work together to move food when creating this feature.

To protect the rainforest these robots can easily move around jungle canopy and notify central authorities of deforestation. Farmers and loggers have certain restrictions on destroying the forest on their property, but the vast size of the rainforest in Brazil makes this difficult to monitor. If effectively implemented these robots can independently act of an eye in the sky. While Kumar’s current vision is to monitor the rainforest a similar concept could greatly increase monitoring of any potentially hazardous area without the need for additional personnel.

Thanks for reading and do not forget to take the quiz.

Best,

Paul

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