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 increase the switching contrast of an all-optical flip-flop

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Robots to save lives in calamity situations in the Alps

Oct 09, 2014

Scientists at the University of Twente are working on robots that are expected to save lives in calamity situations in the Alps. The emphasis within this SHERPA project is on cooperation between human rescue ...

Blackout? Robots to the Rescue

Sep 25, 2014

(Phys.org) —Big disasters almost always result in big power failures. Not only do they take down the TV and fridge, they also wreak havoc with key infrastructure like cell towers. That can delay search ...

Robotic solutions inspired by plants

Oct 06, 2014

EU researchers are demonstrating revolutionary robotic techniques inspired by plants, featuring a 3D-printed 'trunk', 'leaves' that sense the environment and 'roots' that grow and change direction.

Recommended for you

Intelligent materials that work in space

Oct 23, 2014

ARQUIMEA, a company that began in the Business Incubator in the Science Park of the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid, will be testing technology it has developed in the International Space Station. The technology ...

Using sound to picture the world in a new way

Oct 22, 2014

Have you ever thought about using acoustics to collect data? The EAR-IT project has explored this possibility with various pioneering applications that impact on our daily lives. Monitoring traffic density ...

User comments : 0