Conflicting signals can confuse rescue robots

Mar 02, 2007

Sensor-laden robots capable of vital search and rescue missions at disaster sites are no figment of a science fiction writer's imagination. Prototypes and commercial models of urban search and rescue (US&R) robots will soon begin to work rubble piles across the country. Too many of these lifesaving robots, however, could be too much of a good thing, according to researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology, who report that the radio transmissions of multiple robots can interfere with each other and degrade search and rescue performance.

A NIST analysis of wireless radio field trials for US&R robots, presented at a conference on February 28, found that 10 out of the 14 robots tested experienced communication problems due to radio interference from other systems. Engineers carried out tests on the robots last August at a US&R robot standards development gathering in Gaithersburg, Md., sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security.

The researchers found that neither use of "industrial, scientific, and medical" (ISM) frequency bands nor adherence to protocols designed to minimize interference between systems in the bands could guarantee flawless communication between a robot and its human operator. Radio interference could happen whenever the ISM frequency bands became crowded or when one user had a much higher output power than the others. An example of the latter problem occurred during the tests when transmitters in the 1760 MHz band knocked out video links in the 2.4 GHz frequency band. In another case, a robot using an 802.11b signal in the 2.4 GHz band overwhelmed and cut off a robot that had been transmitting an analog video link at 2.414 GHz.

The NIST paper lists a number of ways to improve urban search and rescue wireless communications. Options, some of which are currently being investigated by robot manufacturers, include changes in frequency coordination, transmission protocols, power output, access priority, and using relay transformers to increase the range of wireless transmissions (a technique known as multi-hop communications). The paper also suggests establishing new access schemes or software-defined radios that allow interoperable communications.

Ref.: K.A. Remley, G. Koepke, E. Messina, A. Jacoff and G. Hough. Standards development for wireless communications for urban search and rescue robots. 9th Annual International Symposium on Advanced Radio Technologies, Feb. 26–28, 2007, Boulder, Colo.

Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology

Explore further: Researchers propose network-based evaluation tool to assess relief operations feasibility

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Startup creates underwater robotics with a human touch

Apr 08, 2014

It should be just as easy to use a robotic arm as it is to use your own hand. That's the thinking behind University of Washington startup BluHaptics, which is taking telerobotics—controlling robots from ...

Robots learning to work with humans

Apr 02, 2014

With the advent of "inherently safe" robots, industrial designers are changing their ideas about the factory of the future. Robots such as ABB's Frida and the Baxter robot from MIT spinoff Rethink Robotics ...

In the eye of the beholder

Jan 24, 2014

Astrobiologists are developing 'intelligent' instruments that could help future robotic explorers make their own decisions about where and how to collect data. Although focused on Mars exploration for the ...

Recommended for you

Large streams of data warn cars, banks and oil drillers

18 hours ago

Better warning systems that alert motorists to a collision, make banks aware of the risk of losses on bad customers, and tell oil companies about potential problems with new drilling. This is the aim of AMIDST, the EU project ...

User comments : 0

More news stories

Simplicity is key to co-operative robots

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.

Microsoft CEO is driving data-culture mindset

(Phys.org) —Microsoft's future strategy: is all about leveraging data, from different sources, coming together using one cohesive Microsoft architecture. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella on Tuesday, both in ...

Floating nuclear plants could ride out tsunamis

When an earthquake and tsunami struck the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant complex in 2011, neither the quake nor the inundation caused the ensuing contamination. Rather, it was the aftereffects—specifically, ...

New clinical trial launched for advance lung cancer

Cancer Research UK is partnering with pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Pfizer to create a pioneering clinical trial for patients with advanced lung cancer – marking a new era of research into personalised medicines ...

More vets turn to prosthetics to help legless pets

A 9-month-old boxer pup named Duncan barreled down a beach in Oregon, running full tilt on soft sand into YouTube history and showing more than 4 million viewers that he can revel in a good romp despite lacking ...