Mission objective: Exploring seas with teams of autonomous robots

  1. Research is being conducted to come up with algorithms and Artificial Intelligence (AI) techniques for a heterogeneous fleet of vehicles in aquatic environments.
  2. These new advancements will allow the robots cooperatively to coordinate what to do and minimize the risks in order to effectively learn to do a spatial process.
  3. Some people might be worried because robots and automation might take people’s jobs. However, you don’t need to worry about that because it is most likely that the robots will turn out to be a perfect colleague of a human.

With Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robot technologies, there’s widespread expectation that Qatar’s national priorities such as energy and environment can be achieved.

Gianni Di Caro, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, analyzes interaction and coordination issues in heterogeneous teams of autonomous robots.

            Gianni Di Caro, an associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University in Qatar, studies methodologies for letting a heterogeneous fleet of vehicles acting in full autonomy when executing a mission in aquatic environments for a project, “Teams of Aquatic / Aerial Robots for Marine Environmental Monitoring (TARMEM)”. As an expert who has been researching to create mixed teams of humans and multi-robots, Di Caro works to create mixed teams of humans.

What does it mean? He wants to make a team that both humans and robots can interact and cooperate together in the context of mission execution, such as search and rescue operations.

So in this research, he seeks algorithms for navigation and joint network & mission aware dynamic planning. In order to demonstrate these algorithms, an aquatic robot called “Lutra Prop” will be used. If he successfully finishes the research, these technological advancements will be tremendous for unmanned water-surface robots, considering the abilities of currently operating ones.

Lutra Prop is an aquatic robot that Di Caro is using to demonstrate his findings.
Credit: Platypus LLC

To be specific, current aquatic robots are only able to perform a task lasting a maximum of two days and they require human intervention. However, with the algorithms Di Caro is working on, the weaknesses will be translated into positives. The period of operation will be longer than before since Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) will be carried by aquatic robots, where UAVs can be recharged and be operational again. Moreover, robots will no longer require manual intervention. The robots will be able to cooperate with other fellow robots in a group, just like humans in a team are assisting each other. They will share information to coordinate and cooperate in common mission execution, obtaining effective synergies even in harsh aquatic environments. This project will not only increase the capabilities of aquatic robots but also allow humans to have more complete and exact data.          

Other than overcoming the limitations of current robots, the possibilities of this unmanned robots are striking. It can be further used in other fields as well, like marine border security and oil and gas industry in Qatar. However, Di Caro explains that there are still issues that the project has to solve.

“One of the restrictions we have is getting authorizations from many levels,” Di Caro said, “I understand this but I realized that things are more complicated than I expected.”  

As Di Caro described, there are still legal issues that the project has to go through. It is true that the there is no guarantee that it will be successful, but it can be a game-changer that can shift power not only in the ocean exploration industry, but also in other industries such as the security and oil industry in Qatar. Also, it is possible to expect a better environment where robots and humans cooperate and work in harmony for a common mission, even in dangerous situations.

All Di Caro’s research, including this one, will increase the productivity of human labors, like factory workers became more productive in 18th century. However, some people might be worried because automation can take people’s jobs, like many people had lost their job in 18th century as well.

It is true that automation and robots will continue to grow in use and it is hard to keep proper numbers for robots and humans at the same time. However, as it can be seen in this particular case, the advantages of using robots are enormous. Just like Di Caro studies, robots and AI will eventually create harmonious environments where they can assist and aid humans. Robots might turn out to be a perfect colleague of a human and the use of AI and robots will give people the opportunity to do their jobs more easily, rather than entirely replacing them.


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