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Robot armies to `explore alien worlds`

Last Updated: Thursday, October 29, 2009 - 12:02

Washington: Scientists are on track to create robots that command other robots, a development that will make it possible to explore the alien worlds by armies of flying, driving and sailing humanoids.

Lead researcher Wolfgang Fink, of the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), has been developing software that would let a robotic explorer act independently
and as part of a team. He said we are on the brink of a great paradigm shift in planetary exploration, and the next round of robotic explorers will be nothing like what we see today.
"The way we explore tomorrow will be unlike any cup of tea we`ve ever tasted," underlined Fink, whose work is published in the journal Computer Methods and Programs in Biomedicine and in the Proceedings of the SPIE. Fink envisages the cybernetic adventurers mapping the land and seascapes of Saturn’s moon, Titan. Robotic airships and satellites will fly above the surface of the distant world, commanding squadrons of wheeled rovers and floating robot boats, a development that will transform planetary exploration.

The robot would select priorities for exploration and anticipate and handle problems on their own, according to a report in the Science Daily.

"We are departing from traditional approaches of a single robotic spacecraft with no redundancy that is Earth-commanded to one that allows for having multiple, expendable low-cost robots that can command themselves or other robots at various locations at the same time," said Fink, director of Caltech`s Visual and Autonomous Exploration Systems Research Laboratory.
Presently, robotic exploration relies on single robots controlled from Earth. "In the future, multiple robots will be in the driver`s seat," with an orbiter and a robotic dirigible
balloon giving bird’s-eye views of the planetary surface and sending the information down to teams of rovers, as well as lake landers on partly liquid-covered planets like Titan.

"We are basically heading toward making robots that command other robots," he was quoted as saying by the Science website.

According to the researcher, it will be possible that an entire fleet of robots will be autonomously commanded at once. "This armada of robots will be our eyes, ears, arms and legs in space, in the air, and on the ground, capable of responding to their environment without us, to explore and embrace the unknown," the scientist said.

"It`s sort of like commanding a small army of robots operating in space, in the air and on the ground simultaneously," underlined Fink.

Bureau Report

First Published: Thursday, October 29, 2009 - 12:02
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