01/17/2024 | Digital Innovation

Remote Robots

In the ever-evolving realm of modern robotics, the essence lies in pushing boundaries and embracing innovation. The focal point shifts towards teleoperation, where the focus is on designing systems that enable remote control, ushering in a new era where machines effortlessly execute tasks to support humans in their day-to-day endeavors.

Imagine a scenario where robot – as those we have seen in the final of the AIRA Challenge at the ACHEMA 2022 – performing their autonomous routine walk. It is at night during the week-end – only few colleagues are working during night-shift. Deep within the labyrinthine pipes and chambers, there arises an unexpected anomaly that demands presence at site. Despite the presence of the robot nearby, today there is no choice: a colleague must interrupt his current task, go there and evaluate the situation.

Within the AIRA Challenge 2024 you we ask for the necessary extension to cope with such a situation much more elegant: A teleoperator stationed in a plant control center takes command of the robot. Equipped with advanced sensors and a versatile robotics arm, the teleoperated robot is sent to the position to be checked. Its mission: to identify and resolve the situation under guidance and responsibility of the teleoperator.

Hence, they are being called upon to rise to the occasion and substantiate their value in an open innovation challenge set to unfold at June’s ACHEMA. The aim is not only to spotlight the 24-hour, seven-days-a-week diligence they bring to the table but also to underscore the spectrum of additional tasks they can master. This challenge forms a pivotal part of an ambitious initiative championed by a consortium comprising industry giants, including but not limited to BASF, Bayer, Boehringer Ingelheim and Wacker, all operating under the auspices of NAMUR. The driving expectation behind this challenge is simple: Teleoperation will multiply the value creation of mobile robotics.

Teams from all over the world will have the opportunity to show how close their technology is to the desired solution. In this challenge each team must complete different tasks. The tasks range from simple navigation to opening an standard door and completing a huge buzz wire game. Up to six finalists will be selected at the end of January to present their technology at ACHEMA and compete in the finals in September. “Knowing ongoing developments at several companies and universities, we expect a complete new level of fully immersive intuitive teleoperation” said Dr. Carl- Helmut Coulon, group head of Future Manufacturing Concepts at INVITE, a research partnership between Dortmund University, HHU Düsseldorf and Bayer AG.

Integrating teleoperation introduces a transformative capability to inspect unknown, at worst hazardous,  scenarios in the chemical and pharmaceutical industry. With the advent of teleoperated technology, the utilization of mobile robotics  evolves, offering a dynamic solution for potentially many kinds of situations.

Teleoperation will multiply the value creation of mobile robots in future

AIRA Consortium

Participants will undergo a rigorous selection process based on their on-paper proposals. However, the true test for the robots lies in the execution phase within a meticulously designed ~50m² mock-up scenario, presented before a live audience. Significantly, this constitutes a valuable opportunity for the participants to demonstrate their capabilities firsthand and undergo thorough testing in a dynamic, real-world environment. “in a real environment in front of an audience”, he said. “If you can show you can do it, there’s an opportunity for you to become the supplier of the future. We want to engage technology providers in sending the message that the chemical and pharmaceutical industry is ready to adopt new solutions - if you are able to come up with them.”

Illustrating the complexity of the challenge, the robots will begin with a series of tasks designed to evaluate their overall mobility and ability to navigate the building. The jury will orchestrate a track adorned with feature points, demanding the robot to navigate without any contact with obstacles. In the subsequent round, devoid of obstacles, the focus shifts to speed, putting the robot's agility to the test. Additionally, leg-based robots will face stairs, while wheel-based counterparts tackle an inclined plane, further amplifying the diverse challenges tailored to each technology.

In the laboratory setting, a distinctive task awaits, gauging the robot's proficiency in small waste disposal. The challenge entails the robot skillfully picking up a rag and a screw, followed by efficiently cleaning up a puddle. Points are allocated for each successful execution, emphasizing the team's dexterity in managing diverse and precise tasks within the controlled laboratory environment.

Versatility is essential

Variety takes center stage in this challenge, where tasks span a wide spectrum of functionalities. In one scenario, the robot engages in a quintessential chemical plant task by adeptly opening and closing a valve operated by a person. Shifting gears, the robot navigates a distinctly different challenge by opening a bottle and seamlessly refilling another. The versatility of the robot is further put to the test in the final task, where it must skillfully complete a buzz wire game stretching two meters in length and standing at a half-meter height. These diverse challenges underscore the imperative for adaptability and multifunctionality in the capabilities of the participating robots.


AIRA Organizing Team

Keywords in this article:

#automation, #digitalisation, #robotics

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