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RoBot for Autonomous unDerGround trenchless opERations, mapping and navigation

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - BADGER (RoBot for Autonomous unDerGround trenchless opERations, mapping and navigation)

Reporting period: 2018-07-01 to 2020-06-30

In a nutshell, BADGER will enable access to the underground space with minimum disruption, even if it contains buried objects and other utilities, expand the operational workspace from one dimensional to three dimensional, and ease the supervision process through control and automation tools. It will also contribute significantly to reducing the time and resources necessary for underground operations while minimising the need for human labour-intensive intervention.
The traditional approach for accessing the underground space has been open-cut excavation. However, this technique requires the excavation of large surfaces, involving the destruction of surface civilian infrastructure, traffic congestion, noise and extended environmental intervention, which makes it highly difficult to be applied in areas with densely buried utilities -far from a rare case in urban environments.
BADGER’s autonomous underground robotic system will drill, manoeuvre, localise, map and navigate in the underground space, and will be equipped with tools for constructing horizontal and vertical networks of stable bores and pipelines. The proposed robotic system will enable the execution of tasks that cut across different application domains of high societal and economic impact including trenchless constructions, cabling and pipe installations, geotechnical investigations, large-scale irrigation installations, search and rescue operations, remote science and exploration, and defence applications.
In order for BADGER to become true, research and development of the next major Scientific and Technological Objectives are required throughout the project duration:
• Robotize existing robust and proven trenchless technologies by integrating them with novel modular mechatronic designs.
• Integrate advanced perception capabilities; the underground robot will be fully aware of its internal state and of the external environment and will perform simultaneous localization and mapping.
• Novel control system architecture and learning and cognitive algorithms and methodologies to enable the underground robot to autonomously interpret the environment and reach its desired goals.
To integrate all of the above research outcomes into a market-led robotic system, following a highly modular approach and architecture. BADGER robot can be applied not only for the urban infrastructures such as water & gas pipes and communications cable but also for other novel applications: constriction and transportation infrastructures, soil characterization and geothermal exploration.
BADGER (RoBot for Autonomous UnDerGround Trenchless OpERations, Mapping and Navigation) is a three-year Horizon 2020 project that aims to design and develop an integrated underground robotic system for autonomous construction of subterranean small-diameter and curved tunnel networks in urban environments.
During the first year of the project, the robot system specifications, tunnelling specification and system architecture have been defined. BADGER robot will be form by four modules, each of them composed of different subsystems like drilling head, propulsion and steering mechanism, wall support unit, clamping system, etc. At the moment, the design of these subsystems have been achieved and most of them are in early fabrication stage of the first prototypes.
The robot control system is underdevelopment with a big effort in motion planning, robot dynamic modelling, motion control, hardware control and FDIR. Currently two models exist for this, namely a simple mathematical description of BADGER and a ROS Gazebo model. Both models will develop in parallel with the hardware development, allowing the model to be as accurate as possible.
A miniature version of BADGER, named KIT, with the same functionalities than BADGER robot except the drilling, was developed to support the validation of the basic representative model is required to allow work on the motion control and FDIR
Regarding the motion of the robot, three basic motions have been designed: discrete, continuous and quasi-continuous. The aim is to have continuous motion, but all three motions can be achieved with the design decisions taken.
In addition to this, a decision has been taken to use PLC’s instead of custom embedded control within BADGER. The selection of off-the-shelf components means that BADGER hardware can be tested and developed more quickly.
The first version of the BADGER methods for Ground Penetrating Radar data processing have been developed, including a series of preparatory activities for the development of surface rover module of BADGER.
Alongside, It has been establish a preliminary approach for the mapping and navigation of the surface rover above the underground robot’s operational environment. Also it has started the design of the underground robot localization framework, and the research and development of the framework’s components has been initiated.
BADGER robot’s functionality validation plan is starting in January 2018. Tests will be carried out on component-, subsystem- and system- level. For the sub-systems mechanical drilling, ultrasonic equipment and transport of soil some basic tests had to be done in advance.
The latest news and project’s dissemination activities are published in the project website ( developed early in the project. An exploitation committee has been created and is under development to maximize the interest and exploitation group of BADGER project.
BADGER is a three-year Horizon 2020 project that aims to design and develop an integrated underground robotic system for autonomous construction of subterranean small-diameter and highly curved tunnel networks in urban environments.
The applicability of the proposed robotic system expands way beyond existing trenchless technologies, offering unprecedented capabilities and enabling solutions that cut-across a broad range of existing as well as new application domains that require underground infrastructure of advanced topology. The expected strategic impact of the BADGER project focuses on:
- Introducing advanced robotic technologies, including intelligent control and cognition capabilities, to significantly increase European competitiveness.
- Drastically reducing the traffic congestion and pollution in the European urban environments increasing, in this way, the quality of life of citizens.
- Enabling technologies for new potential applications such as search and rescue, mining and quarrying, civil applications, mapping, etc.
The development of this novel underground robotic systems is beyond the current state-of-the-art:
- The development of a novel miniaturized bore-head.
- The propulsion and steering systems to enable high manoeuvrability capabilities.
- The wall support pipe on-site and on-board production system.
- Software development fur underground environment information processing, process supervision and visualization is expected in: (1) the design of the Tele-manipulation interface for trenchless technologies, (2) the visualization of the data generated by the underground and surface Ground Penetrating Radar system and on the software architecture for the control system of the underground robot
- Development of a control system will be able to be deployed onto other biomimetic robots and contribute to the field of control of biomimetic robots.
BADGER Concept
BADGER in the lab testbed
BADGER in the test field
BADGER robot