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In the future, robots will not only work together with humans, but will also cooperate with each other on solving increasingly complex tasks.
Associate Professor Ole Ravn of DTU Electrical Engineering is head of DTU’s research within robot technology. He has worked with robots and autonomous systems for the past 20 years, and through the years he has witnessed how research results are crossing the border into the real world at increasing speed.
“The technologies of our research from a decade ago are only just now being fully utilized, for example in self-driving cars. But I expect to see our current research in collaborative robots implemented in the industry within just a few years,” says Ole Ravn.
Ole Ravn’s research group is currently developing software for an advanced collaboration between flying and driving robots in connection with an international robot competition—The Mohamed Bin Zayed International Robotics Challenge—where only the world’s best universities are invited.
At the competition, the participating teams will show how they get the robots on the ground and the drones in the air to work together to solve various types of practical tasks—e.g. finding a valve on a box, assessing the size of the nut, choosing the right tool, and, finally, unscrewing it.
“In our latest robotics research, we have managed to code the robots, so they are able not only to read and recognize their surroundings, but also to handle changes, for example if something has been moved or has changed colour or shape. At the same time, the robots are able to communicate and coordinate their work with other robots,” says Ole Ravn.
Remora is another example. It is a research project working to develop a flexible modular robot that can be operated under water. The need for such a robot is great, e.g. for monitoring and repairing the foundations of offshore wind turbines and oil rigs.
“Others are working on similar projects, but our robot differs in one key area. It is modular—which means that each individual part of the robot is able to work alone—or together with other modules. Working in unison, the robots can draw on each other’s functions, thereby becoming fully autonomous. For example, if a robot has problems with his propeller, it can connect with a second module and move using its propeller. The same applies to many other areas—for example in relation to having sufficient battery performance,” explains Associate Professor Roberto Galeazzi, who runs the project.
Robot technology and autonomous systems are one of the themes in focus at the High Tech Summit hosted by DTU on 10 and 11 October. At the summit, you can, among other things, attend a presentation by Ole Ravn or participate in the debate on the future use of robot technology.