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Robot Traverses Unknown Terrain With Flying Buddy's Help

by Devin Coldewey /

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Quadrupedal robots like BigDog are stable and durable, but like us, their vision is limited by their height. This model from ETH Zurich collaborates with a flying partner drone, which maps the area the ground-based bot is to traverse ahead of time. This initial birds-eye view allows the robot to plan a preliminary route before embarking.

The flying robot uses a depth-sensing camera, carefully exploring the room set up by researchers and noting height, obstacles and other features. Afterward, the ground robot double-checks this information with its laser range sensor as it goes, updating the information for future trips.

Such a team-up seems a practical — and, in retrospect, rather obvious — solution to the limited range of a walking robot's vision. The team has submitted its research for the 2016 IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, which will take place in Stockholm next May.

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