Military researchers consider robots able to navigate underground caves for combat search and rescue jobs

April 23, 2021
Robotic operations in tunnels or caves require autonomy because human operators cannot send and receive signals from robots operating underground.

ARLINGTON, Va. – A cave is a terrible place to fight a war. Since 2018 the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in Arlington, Va., has supported a competition to train robots to navigate underground, with minimal aid from humans. Popular Science reports. Continue reading original article

The Military & Aerospace Electronics take:

23 April 2021 -- Sound travels in unfamiliar ways in caves. Light, to the extent that there is any, must be brought into the cave. Thick stone walls and irregular surfaces make it difficult for people to travel on foot and for radio signals to move through the air.

In January, DARPA announced the location and date of the final competition for the Subterranean Challenge: next September at the Louisville Mega Cavern in Kentucky -- a former mine converted into an industrial park.

While there are military applications of all DARPA funds, one of the more up-front goals for the SubT Challenge is figuring out future search and rescue. A robot that can autonomously navigate to a trapped person, transmit information of that discovery back to humans, and safely return to the surface could be an invaluable aid to firefighters or other rescue personnel.

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John Keller, chief editor
Military & Aerospace Electronics

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