Near-series work vehicles get fit for autonomous action

October 01, 2019 //By Christoph Hammerschmidt
Near-series work vehicles get fit for autonomous action
In order not to endanger human lives after accidents with radioactive, chemically or highly inflammable material or in case of acute danger of collapse of the building, highly specialized, remote-controlled vehicles are used, which take over the particularly dangerous tasks. However, such vehicles are very expensive, and they first have to be brought to the scene of the accident. A research consortium led by Fraunhofer institute IOSB-AST Ilmenau (Germany) has now developed an alternative approach and successfully tested it in practice.

The focus of the work was on the conception of an "autonomy kit", which makes it possible to convert construction and working machines, such as excavators and tractors, which are available worldwide, into unmanned operating recovery equipment by equipping sensors and other components within a very short time. This kit supports functions such as autonomous navigation in an unstructured environment, 3D-based assisted object manipulation and situation-adapted networking in an optimal way and thus enables the recovery forces to quickly clear sources of danger. The implementation as an upgrade kit means that no specially converted vehicles have to be kept available worldwide but can be procured and qualified on site.

The research consortium has now presented a practical scenario at the technology and training centre of the Lower Saxony Academy for Fire and Disaster Protection. The scenario was an accident involving a train loaded with dangerous goods. As part of the project, a drone explored the site and communication nodes were relocated. Then two unmanned vehicles drove to the scene - one of them an excavator prepared with the autonomous KIT, the other a "normal" vehicle. There the unmanned excavator automatically reached for one of the dangerous goods containers, removed the ground and loaded it onto the auxiliary vehicle, which returns with the container.

 

According to project manager Andreas Wenzel, the research consortium succeeded in overcoming numerous technical hurdles and evaluating the practical suitability of the technology within the framework of the AKIT project. Now the research team wants to transfer the developed know-how into other application areas and advance it together with industry.

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