H2020-European Project: Collaborative Paradigm for Human Operators and Multi-Robot Systems in Precision Agriculture (CANOPIES) (2021-25)
Here a short presentation of UNICAS activities within the project.
Short abstract of the project. The CANOPIES project aims to develop novel human-robot-interaction (HRI) strategies, human-robot collaboration (HRC) approaches and multi-robot coordination (MRC) methodologies for implementing an effective collaborative paradigm between human operators and a multi-robot system in the context of precision agriculture for permanent crops. We assume that humans will interact with two different kinds of ground robots: i) a farming robot: which is dedicated to the execution of the agronomic tasks such as weeding, harvesting of fruits or pruning; and ii) a logistic robot: which is dedicated to transport tasks. We assume the farming robot to be equipped with two arms for executing the given agronomic tasks and a removable box for output; while we assume the logistic robot to be able to carry several boxes and operate an exchange mechanism for replacing a full box from a farming robot with an empty one. We envisage tight collaboration between the humans and the farming robots and propose a multi-actor model where each farmworker interacts with a small team of robots in order to supervise and/or facilitate the robotic activities. The human may assist in the tasks directly by working alongside the robot team, and should always help when needed e.g. if the robot is uncertain about a classification or location, the human can supply the correct answer. We envision tight cooperation between farming and logistic robots, e.g. the logistic robot may attempt to optimize scheduling by predicting where the next box request would come from.
Given the significance of grape production for the global economy, we use the cultivation and harvest of table-grapes as a representative case study for the validation of the proposed collaborative paradigm. Farming and logistic robots will be built and used in experiments conducted in several working vineyards provided by an Agricultural Cooperative in Aprilia, Lazio, Italy.
Total funding: 6.904.940€.
Local funding: 739.000€
National Project MISE: underground mobile sampling robot (ROBILAUT) (2020-23)
The aim of this project, entitled “RObot campionatore moBILe a navigazione sotterranea AUTonoma e intelligente in cumuli di terreno, secondo tracciati digitalizzati 3D personalizzabili, per il prelievo e omogeneizzazione di campioni da sottoporre ad analisi (ROBILAUT)” is the implementation of an autonomous underground mobile robot for sampling mounds of soil which, then, need to be analised in laboratory. In this way the soil sampling activity, currently performed via excavators, will be cheaper and eco-friendly while minimizing the contamination risk for the human operators that, even today, work through manual methods.
National Project MIUR: Crowd for the Environment (C4E) (2019-22)
The aim of the project is the progress of emerging information technologies in terms of their applicability to environmental monitoring. These technologies will be validated on the specific scenario of detection, characterization and recovery verification of the sites prone to spills on soil and in water. Monitoring push-type systems will be used for the sites identification, which do not require a specific commitment of resources from supply agencies, in particular:
(a) the spontaneous reports of citiziens;
(b) periodic acquisitions carried out by satellites;
(c) the information from sensors located throughout the country.
This information will be analyzed periodically in order to generate the risk maps with the objective to optimize the use of resources subsequentely. The innovation in this phase is the application of new technologies of data extraction (e.g. deep learning, natural language processing and object based image analysis). The phase of sites characterization tipically consists in the patrolling of landscape through the use of UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). Finally, the last phase consists on recovery, optimizing the resources processed in the previous phase. The role of the University of Cassino and Southern Lazio is to develop a decentralized algorithm of collision avoidance, using swarm of UAVs based only on the information available from sensors and maps. This algorithm will be scalable than the number of drones and it will be fault-tolerant with respect to the number of vehicles. The input of this module will be the mission plane developed by CIRA (Italian Research Aerospace Center) while the output will be the flight plan with collision avoidance constraints. In addition a centralized version of this algorithm will be developed.
Qatar Project: Teams of Aquatic/Aerial Robots for Marine Environmental Monitoring (TARMEM) (2018-21)
The general goal is to develop planning, coordination and communication tools for the distributed control of a team of aerial and aquatic robots for time-extended monitoring of marine environments. Ultimately, the aim is to exploit autonomous robot teams to allow frequent and pervasive data gathering in Gulf waters.
We will consider a 3D team featuring autonomous robots with complementary sensory-motor capabilities: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) (multi-rotors) and Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs). Robots are medium-sized, equipped with sensors for environmental monitoring, and GPS devices. The team features multiple vehicles, aiming to create a model of robot swarm, to cover large areas by parallel deployment of multiple, spatially distributed resources. The system will be designed for use in long-running missions, that would allow repeated, time-indexed data sampling.
In order to deliver full autonomy, long-running missions, and effective area coverage the research will develop distributed and scalable solutions for controlling individual and system-level behaviors. The output of the project will consist of:
1) Algorithms for online action planning, to optimize the outcome of the monitoring operations. A robot plan specifies a list of tasks, including: portions of the environment where to perform monitoring actions, what type of actions, for how long. Plans are autonomously computed and adapted by each robot based on mission goals, encountered issues, or reacting to new evidence (e.g., newly sampled data indicate that a certain area should be sampled more than previously planned). Solution approaches will rely on integer programming models for automated planning, coupled with auction-based methods. Robots make use of a wireless communication network to exchange information about plans, fuse sample data, and negotiate on task assignments.
2) Algorithms for coordinated control and plan execution. A plan gives a coarse-grained description of actions. The precise implementation of the plan, including motion actuation, will be dealt by distributed control-based approaches, whose task is to define trajectories that: are collision-free, maximize the gathered mutual information, support fairness of coverage, intensify sampling actions on the most interesting portions of the area. Data exchanged through the network plays a main role for the effective distributed coordination of the controls.
3) Network and mobility control for data transmissions in the robot MANET. Since a data communication infrastructure cannot be guaranteed in general mission scenarios, communications have to rely on a Mobile Ad hoc NETtwork (MANET) established among robots. Information exchange will rely on periodic robot broadcast of profile and mission information. Network connectivity will be supported by: inclusion of robot proximity constraints in planning and coordination models; specification of move actions to maintain/improve/repair connectivity; control on transmission power to adapt wireless ranges. Threshold-based approaches from swarm intelligence will be used to schedule network decisions.
4) Automatic takeoff/landing for UAV/USV + Rendez-vous scheduling. Since commercially available UAVs usually have much reduced power autonomy with respect to USVs, the idea here is to let UAVs to be carried by USVs to recharge or save energy, and so as to stay in the air mainly in the area of interest. This will make long-term missions possible, overcoming current battery limitations for drones. Robust algorithms for the online scheduling of UAV/USV.
European Project: EU Marine Robots (EUMR)(2018-21)
Our oceans are the least-explored region of planet Earth. Protection and sustainable development of ocean resources presents formidable challenges. Robots will play an increasingly key role in the near future and this role will expand and become more challenging as we extend into deeper, remote and hostile marine environments. Europe leads in many aspects of maritime, but lacks well integrated and coordinated oceanic robotic infrastructure or presence.
The marine-robotics industry is growing rapidly. It is a crucial high-value/high-cost sector with considerable entry-barriers to R&D. The full growth potential of this industry will be greatly enhanced with access to shared robotic research infrastructure.
EUMarineRobots (EUMR) proposes an access-infrastructure for the deployment of a full-range of aerial, surface and sub-surface marine robotic assets, the combined value of which is far greater than the sum of their parts. EUMR will open transnational access to significant national marine robotics R&D assets across Europe.
The EUMR consortium comprises 15 partners from 10 countries who, collectively, can deploy a comprehensive portfolio of marine robotic assets with required associated support assets and expertise. The network is a strong and balanced grouping of globally distinguished key players with diverse, track-record of excellence across marine / robotic sectors. Partners are members of a wide variety of existing networks, and research infrastructure collaborations both formal and informal across Europe and the world. EUMR is a first stage in aggregating these networks and assets as world-leading for support and growth of a strong community of practice in marine robotics and marine.
European Project: Robotic Subsea Exploration Technologies (ROBUST)(2016-20)
There is a need to develop an autonomous, reliable, cost effective technology to map vast terrains, in terms of mineral and raw material contents which will aid in reducing the cost of mineral exploration, currently performed by ROVs and dedicated SSVs and crew. Furthermore there is a need to identify, in an efficient and non-intrusive manner (minimum impact to the environment), the most rich mineral sites. This technology will aid the seabed mining industry, reduce the cost of exploration and especially the detailed identification of the raw materials contained in a mining sites and enable targeted mining only of the richest resources existing.
The ROBUST proposal aims to tackle the aforementioned issue by developing sea bed in situ material identification through the fusion of two technologies, namely laser-based in-situ element-analyzing capability merged with underwater AUV (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) technologies for sea bed 3D mapping. This will enable resource identification done by robotic control enabled by the synergy between AUV hovering and manipulator capabilities. The underwater robotic laser process is the Laser Induced Breakdown Spectroscopy (LIBS), used for identification of materials on the sea bed. The AUV Robotic vehicle will dive, identify the resources that are targeted for LIBS scanning through 3D real time mapping of the terrain (hydro-acoustically, laser scanners, photogrammetry) and position the LIBS in the required locations of mineral deposits on the ocean floor to autonomously perform qualitative and quantitative analyses.
European Project: AErial RObotic system integrating multiple ARMS and advanced manipulation capabilities for inspection and maintenance (AEROARMS)(2015-19)
AEROARMS proposes the development of the first aerial robotic system with multiple arms and advanced manipulation capabilities to be applied in industrial inspection and maintenance (I&M). The objectives are:
1. R&D on aerial manipulation to perform I&M. This includes: 1.1 Based on previous partner results, developing systems which are able to grab and dock with one or more arms and perform dexterous accurate manipulation with another arm. Also develop helicopter-based aerial manipulators, with greater payload and flight endurance, and with a dexterous arm to provide advanced manipulation capabilities by means of force interactions and hand-eye coordination using a movable camera with another light arm; 1.2 New methods and technologies for platforms which can fly and manipulate with the coordinated motion of the arms addressing constrained scenarios in which it is dangerous to use the helicopter and where it is not possible to grab to perform I&M operation.
2. Validation of 1.1 in two applications: 1) Installation and maintenance of permanent NDT sensors on remote components; 2) Deploy and maintain a mobile robotic system permanently installed on a remote structure.
To achieve the above objectives AEROARMS will develop the first aerial telemanipulation system with advanced haptic capabilities able to exert significant forces with an industrial robotic arm, as well as autonomous control, perception and planning capabilities. Special attention will be paid to the design and system development in order to receive future certification taking into account ATEX and RPAS regulations.
AEROARMS is strongly related to ICT 23–2014: Robotics enabling the emergence of aerial robots, with manipulation capabilities to operate in industrial I&M, which will be validated in in oil and gas plants to reach TRL5.
The consortium combines excellent capabilities in aerial robotics with leadership in aerial manipulation and key partners for the successful application of I&M.
European Project: Dexterous ROV Operations in Presence of Communications Latencies (DexROV) (2015-19)
Underwater operations (e.g. oil industry) are demanding and costly activities for which ROV based setups are often deployed in addition to deep divers – contributing to operations risks and costs cutting.
However the operation of a ROV requires significant off-shore dedicated manpower – such a setup typically requires a crew consisting of: (1) an intendant, (2) an operator, and (3) a navigator. This is a baseline, and extra staffing is often provisioned. Furthermore, customers representatives often wish to be physically present at the off-shore location in order to advise on, or to observe the course of the operations. Associated costs are high.
In order to reduce the burden of operations, DexROV will work out more cost effective and time efficient ROV operations, where manned support is in a large extent delocalized onshore (i.e. from a ROV control center), possibly at a large distance from the actual operations – thus with latencies in the communication. As a main strategy to mitigate them, DexROV will develop a real time simulation environment to accommodate operators’ requests on the onshore side with no delays. The simulated environment will exploit cm accuracy 3D models of the environment built online by the ROV, using data acquired with underwater sensors (3D sonar and vision based). A dedicated cognitive engine will analyse user’s control requests as done in the simulated environment, and will turn them into primitives that the ROV can execute autonomously in the real environment, despite the communication latencies.
Effective user interfaces will be developed for dexterous manipulation, including a double advanced arm and hand force feedback exoskeleton. The ROV will be equipped with a pair of new force sensing capable manipulators and dexterous end-effectors: they will be integrated within a modular skid.
The outcomes of the project will be integrated and evaluated in a series of tests and evaluation campaigns, culminating with a realistic offshore trial.
European Project: Widely scalable Mobile Underwater Sonar Technology (WiMUST) (2015-18)
The WiMUST (Widely scalable Mobile Underwater Sonar Technology) project aims at expanding and improving the functionalities of current cooperative marine robotic systems, effectively enabling distributed acoustic array technologies for geophysical surveying with a view to exploration and geotechnical applications. Recent developments have shown that there is vast potential for groups of marine robots acting in cooperation to drastically improve the methods available for ocean exploration and exploitation. Traditionally, seismic reflection surveying is performed by vessel towed streamers of hydrophones acquiring reflected acoustic signals generated by acoustic sources (either towed or onboard a vessel). In this context, geotechnical surveying for civil and commercial applications (e.g., underwater construction, infrastructure monitoring, mapping for natural hazard assessment, environmental mapping, etc.) aims at seafloor and sub-bottom characterization using towed streamers of fixed length that are extremely cumbersome to operate. The vision underlying the WiMUST proposal is that of developing advanced cooperative and networked control / navigation systems to enable a large number (tens) of marine robots (both on the surface and submerged) to interact by sharing information as a coordinated team (not only in pairs). The WiMUST system may be envisioned as an adaptive variable geometry acoustic array. By allowing the group of surface and submerged vehicles to change their geometrical configuration, an end-user can seamlessly change the geometry of the ”virtual streamer” trailing the emitter, something that has not been achieved in practice and holds potential to drastically improve ocean surveying. The project brings together a group of research institutions, geophysical surveying companies and SMEs with a proven track record in autonomous adaptive and robust systems, communications, networked cooperative control and navigation, and marine robot design and fabrication.
European Project FP7-IP: European Robotics Challenges (EuRoc) (2014-17)
The European manufacturing industry needs competitive solutions to keep global leadership in products and services. Exploiting synergies across application experts, technology suppliers, system integrators and service providers will speed up the process of bringing innovative technologies from research labs to industrial end-users. As an enabler in this context, the EuRoC initiative proposes to launch three industry-relevant challenges: 1) Reconfigurable Interactive Manufacturing Cell, 2) Shop Floor Logistics and Manipulation, 3) Plant Servicing and Inspection. It aims at sharpening the focus of European manufacturing through a number of application experiments, while adopting an innovative approach which ensures comparative performance evaluation. Each challenge is launched via an open call and is structured in 3 stages. 45 Contestants are selected using a challenge in a simulation environment: the low barrier of entry allows new players to compete with established robotics teams. Matching up the best Contestants with industrial end users, 15 Challenger teams are admitted to the second stage, where the typical team is formed by research experts, technology suppliers, system integrators, plus end users. Teams are required to benchmark use cases on standard robotic platforms empowered by this consortium. After a mid-term evaluation with public competition, the teams advance to showcasing the use case in a realistic environment. After an open judging process, 6 Challenge Finalists are admitted to run pilot experiments in a real environment at end-user sites to determine the final EuRoC Winner. A number of challenge advisors and independent experts decide about access to the subsequent stages. A challenge-based approach with multiple stages of increasing complexity and financial support for competing teams will level the playing field for new contestants, attract new developers and new end users toward customisable robot applications, and provide sustainable solutions to carry out future challenges.
National Project PRIN: Marine Autonomous Robotics for InterventionS (MARIS) (2013-16)
The general objective of the MARIS project is studying, developing and integrating, technologis and methodologies enabling the development of underwater robotic systems for manipulation and transportation activities; within underwater scenarios which are typical for the off-shore industy, for the underwater search and rescue operations, as well as for the underwater scientific missions. Within such ambitious objective, the proposing instituitiona also intend to experimenatlly demonstrate, in the form proof-of-concept, the achievable operational capabilities; by also integrating the research results within real experimental systems. On the basis of the knowledges and experiences owned by the consortium; of its available logistic structures, laboratories and equipments; as well as the already available advanced-stage designs for the experimental systems; the consortium consider as really possible to coordinately develop all the necessary technological and methodologocal aspects; while also converging toward their final integration on the experimental to be in parallel realized; starting from the sub-systems and advanced-stage designs made available by some of the proposing institutions.
European Project FP7-IP: Aerial Robotics Cooperative Assembly system (ARCAS) (2011-15)
The ARCAS project proposes the development and experimental validation of the first cooperative free-flying robot system for assembly and structure construction. The project will pave the way for a large number of applications including the building of platforms for evacuation of people or landing aircrafts, the inspection and maintenance of facilities and the construction of structures in inaccessible sites and in the space.The detailed scientific and technological objectives are:1)New methods for motion control of a free-flying robot with mounted manipulator in contact with a grasped object as well as for coordinated control of multiple cooperating flying robots with manipulators in contact with the same object (e.g. for precise placement or joint manipulation)2)New flying robot perception methods to model, identify and recognize the scenario and to be used for the guidance in the assembly operation, including fast generation of 3D models, aerial 3D SLAM, 3D tracking and cooperative perception3)New methods for the cooperative assembly planning and structure construction by means of multiple flying robots with application to inspection and maintenance activities4)Strategies for operator assistance, including visual and force feedback, in manipulation tasks involving multiple cooperating flying robotsThe above methods and technologies will be integrated in the ARCAS cooperative flying robot system that will be validated in the following scenarios: a) Indoor testbed with quadrotors, b) Outdoor scenario with helicopters, c) free-flying simulation using multiple robot arms.The project will be implemented by a high-quality consortium whose partners have already demonstrated the cooperative transportation by aerial robots as well as high performance cooperative ground manipulation. The team has the ability to produce for the first time challenging technological demonstrations with a high potential for generation of industrial products upon project completion.
National Project FIRB “Futuro in ricerca”: NECTAR (2010-13)
The NECTAR project is aimed at coordinating the research activity of two research Units of the Italian Community of Control Engineering (from the University of Cassino and the University of Roma Tre) on control issues for networked robotic systems.
In particular, the NECTAR project wants to investigate and develop innovative techniques for the control of networked and cooperative robotic systems, i.e., teams of autonomous vehicles that, in order to achieve a common goal, cooperate by exchanging information via a wireless communication.
The project activities will be focused on the development of motion control techniques for a team of mobile robots that has to carry out coordinated missions both in an environment lacking of a communication infrastructure (or sensor network) and in an environment where these infrastructure are available. In the first case, motion control techniques that allow the robots to achieve coordinated missions while preserving the established connectivity will be investigated. In the second case, techniques to integrate the team of robots with an infrastructure providing communication or additional sensor information will be analyzed and developed.
The strategies developed during the project will be implemented and tested by exploiting the experimental setups already available at the Research Units and/or by using the equipment that will be expressly bought for the project purposes. In particular, the multi-robot team available at the Laboratory of Industrial Automation of the University of Cassino and the multi-robot team along with the sensor network available at the Robotics and Sensor Fusion Laboratory of the University of Roma Tre will be used.
National Project PRIN: MEMONET (2010-12)
With reference to a scenario in which the team is asked to explore an unknown environment lacking a communication infrastructure, the multirobot system is organized in two groups: a first group is made of a team of exploration agents, while a second group is made of a team of service agents. The two groups perform a synergic action, in that the exploration agents build the map of the environment using the communication and localization functionalities provided by the service agents.
In this scenario, the main topics that will be investigated in the research program are multirobot exploration techniques, cooperative localization and map building, and control of Mobile Ad-hoc NETworks (MANET).
The experimental testing of the proposed techniques will be performed by the Operating Units in the short term with the different mobile robots already available at their laboratories that will be upgraded as soon as possible so as to better investigate the complexity issues related to the handling of large teams.
European Project FP7-Strep: Cooperative Cognitive Control for Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (CO3-AUVs) (2009-12)
Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) represent one of the most challenging frontiers for robotics research. AUVs work in an unstructured environment and face unique perception, decision, control and communications difficulties. Currently, the state of the art is dominated by single AUVs limited to open-sea, preplanned trajectories with offline postprocessing of the data gathered during the mission. The use of multiple AUVs as explored in this project is still in a very early research phase. Some of the research issues addressed in this project are even completely uncharted territory, especially the development of functionalities to seamlessly monitor critical underwater infrastructures and detect anomalous situations (e.g., missions related to harbour safety and security) and, also, the study of advanced AUVs capable of interacting with humans to perform such functions as companion/support platforms during scientific and commercial dives. The aim of the Co3-AUVs project is to develop, implement and test advanced cognitive systems for coordination and cooperative control of multiple AUVs. Several aspects will be investigated including 3D perception and mapping, cooperative situation awareness, deliberation and navigation as well as behavioral control strictly linked with the underwater communication challenges. As a result, the team of AUVs will cooperate in challenging scenarios in the execution of missions where all data is processed online. In doing so, the team will be robust with respect to failures and environmental changes. These key features will be tested in a harbour scenario, where additional difficulties arise, compared to open sea applications and in a human diver assistance scenario that also illustrates human robot interaction issues.
European Project FP7-IP: European Clearing House for Open Robotics Development (ECHORD) (2009-12)
In Europe the robotics industry is strong, but still fragmented and dispersed. The objective of ECHORD is to provide new opportunities for coordinated and target-oriented scientific research as well as knowledge transfer in robotics and to create a productive collaboration environment for research institutions and robot manufacturers across Europe. This cooperation will reduce the fragmentation of our robotics industry. European robotics industry will be helped to achieve a significant cutting-edge advantage in the increasingly competitive world market. ECHORD aims at producing new knowledge through advancing the state of the art in human-robot interfacing and safety, robot hands and complex manipulation, mobile manipulators and cooperation, and networked robots and systems.