Emesent – CSIRO Data61 – Georgia Tech team finalist in DARPA SubT challenge
For four days, elite robotics teams from around the world gathered in Kentucky, USA, to compete in the prestigious DARPA Subterranean Challenge, dubbed the “Olympics for Robotics”. Australian team Emesent – CSIRO Data61 – Georgia Tech were delighted to take second place, in a tiebreaker after scoring tied on points (23) with Team Cerberus.
“This is an incredible result and the result of many years of hard work and collaboration from our team. A big thank you to everyone who contributed to this project, ”said Dr Farid Kendoul, CTO and co-founder of Emesent.
“We are very proud of the contributions Emesent has made over the past three years to advance the state of the art in robotics and showcase the capabilities of Australian businesses to the global stage. Congratulations Cerbère.
DARPA (US Defense Advanced Research Project Agency) is renowned for funding Grand Challenges in the fields of robotics and AI, with the aim of fostering and accelerating pioneering research. The Subterranean (or SubT) Challenge was created to push the boundaries of autonomous exploration and mapping in harsh underground environments where there is no GPS or communication infrastructure. These environments are commonly encountered during search and rescue missions after natural disasters. Robots can be autonomously deployed beyond line of sight and standard communication networks to gain situational awareness without endangering humans.
The SubT Challenge began three years ago and included annual events leading up to the final which took place in the Louisville Mega Cavern in Kentucky, United States. The event included circuits that combined urban, tunnel and cave environments to test robots in a variety of challenging real-world scenarios. Points were scored by the robots finding items of interest relevant to search and rescue (such as trapped survivors, backpacks and cell phones) and correctly reporting their locations.
Underground environments can be dark and include narrow passages or rough terrain as well as raised areas inaccessible to ground robots. This combination lends itself to heterogeneous robot teams that can work together to cover a variety of environments.
The Emesent – CSIRO Data61 – Georgia Tech team has deployed a fleet of six robots, including two Hovermap compatible drones, two crawler robots and two quadruped robots. All were equipped with the ability to explore autonomously while creating a unified real-time 3D map by sharing their local map data via a wireless mesh network they formed. Emesent developed the autonomous drone capability while CSIRO Data61 developed the ground robot capability. The framework for coordination and division of labor among robotics was provided by the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Given Emesent’s track record in developing autonomous drones to map challenging environments such as underground mines, and CSIRO Data61’s world-leading capability in autonomous ground robots, it was natural to team up to meet the challenge. challenge. The two Brisbane-based entities were proud to represent Australia as part of a collaboration with US-based team member Georgia Tech.
“This is the first time that an Australian team has qualified for a DARPA Challenge final, and we are very proud to showcase Australia’s capabilities in this area on the world stage,” said Dr Navinda Kottege, head of the CSIRO group.
Although Emesent has commercially deployed its Hovermap drone autonomy and mapping capability since 2019, the combination of this with ground-based autonomous robot capability opens up a host of exciting and valuable future applications.
“Having a fleet of driving, walking and flying robots that accomplish complex missions in an autonomous and collaborative manner is a major technological step forward and an important step towards the use of autonomous systems to save lives and help people,” said said Dr Farid Kendoul.
“We will continue to push the boundaries of battery life and mapping denied by GPS at Emesent and we are excited to see this having an additional impact in many industries. “
About Emesent and Hovermap
Emesent’s vision is to be the global leader in the autonomous digitization of difficult and hard-to-reach places and assets. Founded in 2018, the company has more than 90 employees, with expertise in robotics, AI, machine learning and data analysis. Their flagship product, Hovermap, is a unique LiDAR mapping and range payload that allows drones to fly autonomously in harsh environments without GPS to map and explore.