The University of Coimbra's (UC) Institute of Systems and Robotics researchers are developing a new robotic platform for life-threatening humanitarian demining missions.
The system is being developed under the Partnerbot Grant Program, which is being sponsored by the Canadian robotics maker, Clearpath Robotics, through supply of its Husky A200 unmanned ground vehicle (UGV) as the mobile robotic base.
University of Coimbra senior lecturer and academic liaison for the project, Lino Marques, said the minesweeping is an extremely dangerous and time-intensive process.
''Robots do not get tired, they can be extremely thorough performing their jobs and their cost is infinitely smaller than that of a human life. For these reasons, robots are a perfect solution for the minesweeping problem,'' Marques said.
Clearpath Robotics CEO, Matt Rendall, said: ''Clearpath Robotics was originally founded with a focus to clear landmines using a swarm of small mobile robots - that's how we got our name - so it's very exciting for us to work with the University of Coimbra to advance this incredibly noble research.''
Designed with open source software using the robot operating system (ROS), the mobile robotic base features navigation and localisation sensors, ground penetration radar, as well as a custom robotic arm with an attached metal detector.
Specifically, the robot has been developed to accomplish three key tasks, to see terrain characteristics, navigate across the terrain and also detect and localise landmines.
Even though the first round of field tests was interrupted due to issues with the custom robotic arm in 2013, the company is hoping to make adjustments and conduct a second round of field tests in mid-2014.
The Husky A200 is a rugged, all-terrain robotic platform designed for robotics, mechatronics and automation applications.
Image: Israeli soldier clears a minefield as part of a unit drill. Photo: courtesy of Israel Defense Forces.