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A thematic network on climbing and walking robots including the support technologies for mobile robotic machines


The current trend in robotics has been for each application area (nuclear, construction, space, etc.) to develop its own specialised systems with little or no cross fertilisation between the different areas. This fragmented approach has led to considerable re-invention being carried out for each project even though the knowledge may be available elsewhere. Furthermore this approach has prevented a robotics industry to develop instead of a fragmented collection of robot manufacturers who need to produce all the designs and associated components in an isolated manner without any real supporting infrastructure. This project is aimed at redressing this imbalance and thus reducing the wastage of time, effort and resources in future projects, by setting up a thematic network in the area of mobile robotics. The Thematic Network brings together European engineers, scientists and industrialists so they can interact with each other in an effective manner and coordinate activities, and sharing of expertise can result. The network concentrates on climbing and walking robots (CLAWAR) and associated support technologies because this is an active area of research where much innovative work has been carried out in recent years. The network is carrying out several activities to introduce design unification into robotic systems as well as critically examining the state-of-the-art so that complementary research which should be supported by the Community as RTD projects can be indentified.

More specifically, the aims of the CLAWAR network are:- to keep up-to-date on the status of the CLAWAR technology and disseminate this information widely;- to pool information on user requirements in a variety of application areas;- to identify synergies and overlaps between users, manufacturers and researchers working in different application areas;- to define the user requirements as functionality modules and how best to achieve this modularity in future robotic designs;- to advise the EC and partners on future CLAWAR research priorities; and- to provide opportunities for the sharing of expertise and experiences via staff secondments.

The network encompasses key academic centres of excellence and industrial partners with interests in robotics either as suppliers (from component level to complete robots) or as potential users to work together during the Implementation Phase of CLAWAR. These partners, with assistance from key experts, are rationalising the fragmented research requirements for current and future robotic machines and defining the key features for modularity so that future research effort can be co-ordinated. In this manner, the immediate and future needs of users in a variety of applications areas (such as nuclear, construction, outdoor, off shore and leisure markets) can be satisfied.

The requirements for robotic applications throughout Europe are wide-ranging, spanning areas where technology levels are low to areas which are already highly automated using the latest developments. The project reported here takes the initial steps towards finding a solution for the robotics community by focusing and co-ordinating activity within Europe, so that the current position can be determined and future developments assisted for all parties involved. It is extremely difficult and expensive to develop robotic for all situations, since there is no accepted generalised design procedure. To address this problem the network is looking at a range of applications and rationalising the requirements into discrete but generic modules, which can be integrated to form application specific designs in a straightforward manner. In this way the benefit to many application areas throughout Europe can be maximised. For this to work effectively, a comprehensive network is proposed with the key players involved in defining the best way forward for the CLAWAR industry. It is envisaged that when a coherent modularity philosophy has been developed and adopted, the process could lead to a coordinated industry able to develop products, which can be integrated with, those produced by other manufacturers. Such co-operation could lead to considerable commercial benefits for Europe.

POTENTIAL APPLICATIONSIndustrial interest has already been generated amongst European and International markets by this technology and CLAWAR has already highlighted many existing and potential applications. Industrial users see the need for these machines and recognize the associated benefits of several aspects of the technology and have identified among others the following areas to be concentrated upon:- modularity;- improved valve control;- intelligence and self decision making capabilities;- 3D path planning;- improved and intelligent sensor, actuator and powering technologies;- reliability and robustness aspects;- effective solutions for navigation and collision avoidance;- perception techniques. During the Implementation Phase of CLAWAR all the above aspects of robot design and manufacture will be addressed. In this way the specific needs of different industries will be determined and a coherent focus for future action established. It is important that Europe is actively involved in these latest developments and that its actions are coordinated for maximising the impact of the work in order to stay in the forefront of the climbing and walking robotic field.

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University of Portsmouth
Hampshire terrace
PO1 2EG Portsmouth
United Kingdom

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Participants (26)