RENO, Nev. – Team Cerberus, an international collaboration based in the University of Nevada, Reno College of Engineering, has been selected to move on to the second round of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Subterranean Challenge.
Team Cerberus is one of 11 robotics teams from around the world that participated in the first round of DARPA’s latest robotics challenge last month. Each team brought novel approaches to rapidly map, explore, and search underground environments in time-sensitive operations critical for the civilian and military domains alike.
“We are even more excited for the future steps of the DARPA Subterranean Challenge, and we look forward to the Urban and Cave Circuits in 2020,” said Kostas Alexis, an associate professor in the University of Nevada’s Computer Science and Engineering Department. “With the lessons learned from the Tunnel Circuit, we aim to revolutionize how walking and flying robots can work collaboratively in a manner that provides a unified solution to the multiple challenges of subterranean robotic entry and exploration.”
Led by Alexis, Team Cerberus rolled out technologies aimed at revolutionizing how robotic systems navigate and operate in the underground domain – human-made tunnel systems, urban underground settings, and natural cave networks that are too dangerous, dark, deep, and unknown to risk human lives.
“Our team got the sixth position out of 11 outstanding teams,” Alexis said about the first challenge. “We knew from the beginning that our legged locomotion and flying robots approach would not be at maximum maturity – compared to, for example, wheeled platforms. We are confident, however, that our approach is the best way to go to provide a unified solution for all the environments the DARPA Subterranean Challenge is about; such as tunnels, caves and metropolitan underground infrastructure.”
Team Cerberus is named for the multi-headed canine guardian of the underworld in Greek mythology and stands for “CollaborativE walking and flying RoBots for autonomous ExploRation in Underground Settings.” It is based on the collaboration among experts who have been at the forefront of research into walking and flying robots for the past few years.
In addition to Alexis, director of the Autonomous Robots Lab at the University of Nevada, Reno, the team includes Prof. Marco Hutter of the Robotic Systems Lab at ETH (the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology) Zurich, Prof. Roland Siegwart of the Autonomous Systems Lab at ETH Zurich, Prof. Mark Mueller of the HiPeR Lab at the University of California, Berkeley; and Maurice Fallon of the Oxford Robotics Institute, Sierra Nevada Corp. in Sparks, Nev., and Flyability in Switzerland.
The team’s autonomous robots are equipped with multi-modal perception systems, navigation and mapping autonomy and self-organized networked communications. These features enable robust and reliable navigation, exploration, and mapping and object search.
“The experience of the Tunnel Circuit of the DARPA Subterranean Challenge was unique and extremely rewarding for the whole team,” Alexis said. “It was a combination of extreme challenge and motivation, combined with working with good colleagues and getting to know more. We are honored that we had the chance to be there.”
2020 challenges for Team Cerberus
The second challenge, the Urban Circuit, will be in February 2020. It will feature the exploration of underground metropolitan infrastructure such as a subway or sewers that can have complex layouts with multiple stories and span several city blocks. These areas are critical for search and rescue, security and other application domains.
In August 2020, the Cave Circuit will be the third challenge. It refers to the exploration of natural cave networks — environments that are also crucial for a variety of search and rescue applications. Natural cave networks often have irregular geological structures, with both constrained passages and large caverns.
The final event, planned for 2021, will feature a course that incorporates challenges from all three underground environments.
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