Is that a robot in your suitcase?

Nov 02, 2011
Professor Peter Corke from the Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, with his flying robot. Credit: Erika Fish

A flying robot as small as a dinner plate that can zoom to hard-to-reach places and a fleet of eco-friendly robotic farm-hands are just two of the exciting projects the robotics team at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), based in Brisbane, Australia, is working on.

The pint-sized propellor-powered robots can be packed away into a suitcase. They have multiple cameras which enable them to 'see' the world around them as they navigate their way through buildings, carrying out tasks like or inspections.

"You'll be able to put your suitcase on the ground, open it up and send the off to do its job," said Professor Peter Corke, from the Faculty of Built Environment and Engineering.

"These robots could fly around and deliver objects to people inside buildings and inspect things that are too high or difficult for a human to reach easily.

"Instead of having to lower someone down on a rope to a window on the seventh floor, or raise them up on a cherrypicker, you could send up the flying instead."

The QUT researchers are using cost-effective technology so the robots are affordable. Within the next year, it may be possible to attach arms to the device so it can also fix things.

Professor Corke said his team were busy working out the technical challenges.

"We need to keep it safe when it's up near solid things like power poles, or the edge of a building. It also needs to be able to keep its position when the wind is blowing," he said.

Professor Corke and his team, including fellow researcher Dr Ben Upcroft, are also researching ways to create lightweight agricultural robots, equipped with cameras, that have advanced navigation capability, cooperate in teams to cover large areas and resupply themselves - all while causing less soil damage and applying more intelligently.

" are currently using machines which indiscriminately spray herbicide across the crop, which is expensive and not very environmentally friendly," Dr Upcroft said.

"The (robot's) camera can look at the area surrounding the robot and the image recognition software will pick out features of the weed which make it different to the rest of the crop."

The three-year project, which was recently awarded nearly $400,000 in funding from the Australian Research Council, is being conducted with the University of Sydney and Queensland farmer Andrew Bate, who runs Advanced Agricultural Systems.

Andrew Bate, who has a grain and cattle farm at Bendee, south-west of Emerald in central Queensland, said the automation of agriculture was a new frontier.

"We've already reached peak farmland, so we have to figure out smarter farming systems which increase yield in a more cost-effective and environmentally sustainable way," Mr Bate said.

"Every other industry is already enjoying the benefits of robotics. This is the revolution farming has to have."

Explore further: SRI microrobots show fast-building factory approach (w/ video)

Related Stories

Ping-pong robots debut in China (w/ video)

Oct 15, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- Last week some oohs and ahhs were in order as two ping-pong playing robots made their debut at Zhejiang University in China. The two robots played against each other and with humans. True, ...

It's a bird, it's a plane, it's a robot bird (w/ video)

Mar 29, 2011

(PhysOrg.com) -- The great thing about robots is that they come in all shapes and sizes. Of course, that is also one of the creepiest things about robots too. You never know what is going to be a robot these ...

Recommended for you

A robot dives into search for Malaysian Airlines flight

18 hours ago

In the hunt for signs of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370—which disappeared on March 8 after deviating for unknown reasons from its scheduled flight path—all eyes today turn to a company that got its start ...

Simplicity is key to co-operative robots

Apr 16, 2014

A way of making hundreds—or even thousands—of tiny robots cluster to carry out tasks without using any memory or processing power has been developed by engineers at the University of Sheffield, UK.

Students turn $250 wheelchair into geo-positioning robot

Apr 16, 2014

Talk about your Craigslist finds! A team of student employees at The University of Alabama in Huntsville's Systems Management and Production Center (SMAP) combined inspiration with innovation to make a $250 ...

Using robots to study evolution

Apr 14, 2014

A new paper by OIST's Neural Computation Unit has demonstrated the usefulness of robots in studying evolution. Published in PLOS ONE, Stefan Elfwing, a researcher in Professor Kenji Doya's Unit, has succes ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

stardust magician
not rated yet Nov 05, 2011
Hard to reach places"? hummmm, attach a scrub brush and get the middle of my back!

More news stories

Researchers uncover likely creator of Bitcoin

The primary author of the celebrated Bitcoin paper, and therefore probable creator of Bitcoin, is most likely Nick Szabo, a blogger and former George Washington University law professor, according to students ...

LinkedIn membership hits 300 million

The career-focused social network LinkedIn announced Friday it has 300 million members, with more than half the total outside the United States.

Impact glass stores biodata for millions of years

(Phys.org) —Bits of plant life encapsulated in molten glass by asteroid and comet impacts millions of years ago give geologists information about climate and life forms on the ancient Earth. Scientists ...