What's a Robotics Rodeo? I have absolutely no idea, but it sounds pretty cool. Come to think of it, so does the title of the article that inspired this post, "Mini unmanned aircraft embark on missions with a Porsche named Sting." You can see why it captured my attention, right? I mean come on, a Porsche named "Sting" working "missions" with unmanned mini airplanes! That has blog post written all over it...
Back in 2007, the freakishly smart engineers at the Georgia Tech Robotics Institute (GTRI) developed Sting (a completely autonomous Porsche Cayenne) to compete in the 2007 DARPA Urban Challenge. As if that weren't complicated enough, this year they upgraded Sting with a new radio that allows it to communicate with unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) outfitted with similar equipment. Why would a robotic Porsche need to talk to robotic planes? To locate a target of course. Huh?
Let me try to explain
Sting is just one part of a three part system known as the Collaborative Unmanned Systems Technology Demonstrator or CUSTD for short. CUSTD's two other major components are small-scale yellow UAVs (they are actually 1/4 scale Piper Cubs) that are designed to work in conjunction with the Porsche to track targets. According to Scientific America, "In a typical CUSTD scenario, the two aircraft search for an existing target over a wide area. When one plane spots the target, it radios its location using GPS coordinates to Sting, which then finds its way to the target. The UAV over the target can also call in the second aircraft to fly to the target and use its sensors to further analyze the situation."
The point of CUSTD is to demonstrate how dissimilar robotic vehicles (in this case Porsches and planes) can work together to solve problems with little to no human involvement. Possible uses for the technology are only limited by your imagination but might include, military work such as detecting the presence of toxic or lethal chemicals (the Porsche is equipped with a chemical sensor), bomb detection, tracking ground troops, etc.
All I kept thinking about when I read this were those signs you see on the side of the highway. You know the ones I'm talking about, "speed checked by aircraft". Now, not only can they check it, but they can call in "Sting" to make the bust.
How do you take something with so much potential to be cool and make it boring?
Simple, have a robotics engineer narrate the video. Seriously, if you want more information about Sting and how the CUSTD system works you can watch the video*. However, don't say I didn't warn you!! All joking aside, this is pretty impressive technology and I like the fact that they chose a Porsche as part of the system. I wonder how long it will be before we see this type of stuff deployed in everyday life?
*The video is from Scientific America. Unfortunately, they make you sit through a 15 second advertisement before you get to watch.