Weekly Robotics #30

1) Why Anti-Poaching Drones Haven’t Worked Well.
INFO: This post on DIY Drones by Chris Anderson highlights a discussion from ArduPilot Discourse on the topic of using drones for anti poaching efforts. The discussions are interesting both from the engineering and environmental perspective. As user Graham_Dyer says in one of his post: “From my experience I believe, that even with the best intentions and best technology, drones will never have more than a negligible effect on poaching. To put it in context, the Canine teams in the KNP’s best haul was 18 poachers apprehended in one week. Our drone team saw less than 8 poachers in TWO years of night flying, with not one apprehension. So if the drone is not CATCHING an average of 2-5 poachers a WEEK then it’s of no use. And note that poachers get around deterrents easily”.

2) 3 New Chips to Help Robots Find Their Way Around.
INFO: This article from IEEE highlights advances in systems-on-chip (SoC) that can perform robot navigation and path planning and even visual SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping). The systems described in the article were developed by engineers and researchers from Intel, University of Minnesota and University of Michigan.

3) The MIT Super Mini Cheetah.
INFO: In issue #28 we’ve presented MIT Mini Cheetah. The Super Mini Cheetah is another project from MIT Biomimetics Lab. Compared to the larger version the Super Mini is a low cost build that has simpler kinematics and in our opinion resembles a Cheetah a lot more than it’s bigger brother (it might have to do with the robot’s head).

4) Supervised Racing.
INFO: This blog post from January describes Donkeycar project (presented in Weekly Robotics #2) AI. We think that the post gives a nice big picture of how Donkeycar works. The team behind Markku recently open sourced a set of 3D designs that can be used for attaching the required hardware to the R/C car.

5) A Rare Look at the Meltdown Inside Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.
INFO: This article from CNET shows how robots are used in cleaning up Fukushima nuclear power plant. Most of the work done there by robot is exploratory - giving technicians input on the conditions inside of the reactor. According to the article engineers are working on custom robotic systems that can be used in the high radiation level zones. The article contains many photos of the Fukushima plant, including photos taken at Naraha Center for Remote Control Technology, where Japan Atomic Energy Agency setup facilities for engineers to test robots designed to work at the nuclear site.

6) OpenMV - Low Cost Machine Vision Module.
INFO: “The OpenMV project is about creating low-cost, extensible, Python powered, machine vision modules and aims at becoming the “Arduino of Machine Vision“. Our goal is to bring machine vision algorithms closer to makers and hobbyists. We’ve done the difficult and time-consuming algorithm work for you leaving more time for your creativity”. The project is open sourced under MIT licence. On GitHub you will find both the hardware schematics and software.

7) Publication of the week - Differential-Drive In-Pipe Robot for Moving Inside Urban Gas Pipelines (2005).
INFO: This paper by Se-gon Roh and Hyouk Ryeol Choi introduces MRINSPECT IV, a differential-drive robot meant to be used for 10 cm (4 in) pipes inspection. The length of the robot is 150 mm (6 in), the minimum radial size it can achieve is 85 mm (3.3 in) and the maximum is 109 mm (4.3 in). The weight of the robot is 0.7 kg (1.5 lbs) and it can travel at a speed of up to 0.15 m/s. The paper provides interesting insights on using a differential drive in complex geometric workspaces. In the paper the researchers focus on geometric analysis of the behaviour and wheel velocity control in branches and elbows.


1) Maritime Robotics (Asker/Oslo, Norway) - Electrical Engineer.
INFO: Maritime Robotics is a leading provider of innovative unmanned solutions for maritime operations in harsh environments. Our systems operate unmanned in the air and on the surface.

2) Canonical (home based, US) - Robotics Engineer.
INFO: Ubuntu is the operating system of choice for robotics. We at Canonical (the company behind Ubuntu) want to make it even better, and we’re looking for talented developers to join the effort.