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Enrich: Robotics teams need a talent for improvisation | heise online

The participants in the Enrich robotics competition (EuropeaN RobotICs Hackathon) have to demonstrate a lot of ingenuity. In the safest nuclear power plant in the world in Zwentendorf, Austria, they are tackling tasks this week that could be similar to a disaster.

The nuclear power plant on the Danube was completed, but it is after one a year 1978 plebiscite against nuclear power never went into operation. Because no area is irradiated, the facility is ideal for exercises. To the at Robotterwettbewerb Enrich One of the tasks set is to find slightly radioactive material.

The team’s robot RoboTHIx, which was put together by students of the TH Ingolstadt only in the last two months, was not able to reach all rooms due to its equipment. Nevertheless, the team managed to locate a source of radiation because the robot was close enough to the starting point – the operator could hear the creak of the Geiger counter. In conjunction with the two-dimensional map that was created during the journey, the team was able to determine the origin of the radiation with sufficient accuracy. The team hopes to be able to create a three-dimensional map by the second run on Thursday.

The team Dynamics from the Upper Austria University of Applied Sciences showed a talent for improvisation when it came to recovering a twelve-kilogram doll. It represented an injured person. Before that, Dynamics had succeeded in an astonishingly short time in using a chain-driven robot to locate the radiation sources hidden in metal tubes and to close the correct valves.

The Upper Austrian team used the remaining time to help the second, wheel-driven robot with the rescue. He only has one rigid arm with a hook. It proved too difficult to slip the hook under the doll’s belt. The other robot, in turn, was equipped with a manipulator that was optimized for closing the valves, but could not grip. The Austrians tried to solve the task with these two sub-optimally equipped robots.

Even if this was not crowned with success, the attempt and the imagination developed were remarkable and corresponded to the spirit of the event: Even real rescue workers somehow have to cope with the available resources.

At the same time, Enrich offers the opportunity to try out new technology. For example, the Fraunhofer FKIE team started with a robot whose arm was controlled by an operator with virtual reality glasses. Via this display, waypoints can also be given to the robot, which it can then approach autonomously. At bottlenecks and other difficult places, however, another operator has to take control.


RoboTHIx, TH Ingolstadt

The robot from the RoboTHIx team begins its exploratory journey. (Image: Hans-Arthur Marsiske)

The 40-meter-high shaft through which flying robots were supposed to penetrate into the reactor room posed a particular challenge. It turned out that rather insidious air currents endanger the stability of the drones here. The British team’s quadrocopter LUCAS crashed after flying up almost the entire shaft. According to the team members, that probably had nothing to do with turbulence. They suspected an error in the self-localization of the drone flying on the basis of predetermined waypoints.

The only other team that faced this challenge was more successful. This may be due to the fact that the significantly larger quadrocopter of the Southwest Research Institute has a more stable attitude. The flying drone crossed the shaft without any problems, then hovered for a while in the reactor room and produced a three-dimensional map with a resolution of three meters per voxel with its laser scanner.

Immediately after the flight, it was not yet clear whether the radiation sources could also be correctly located on this map. To do this, the data must first be processed. The last day of the competition, Thursday, will provide information about this. And if you don’t succeed, there is, as for all teams, the opportunity to try again.


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