Modular robots being developed to navigate tunnels and caves

The project is being entered into the US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s Subterranean Challenge, a multi-year robotics competition with a $2m prize.

The Carnegie Mellon team is one of six teams that will receive up to $4.5m from DARPA to develop the robotic platforms, sensors and software necessary to accomplish complex underground missions.

According to CMU, the robots will be tasked with rapidly mapping, exploring and exploiting underground environments that range from spaces that humans can only crawl through, to areas big enough to accommodate an all-terrain vehicle.

The challenge is designed to provide armed forces and emergency services with the capabilities they need to accomplish a variety of missions in caves, tunnels or underground facilities in towns and cities.

“Successfully completing these missions will require multiple robots, including both drones and ground vehicles,” said Sebastian Scherer, who will lead the team with Matt Travers, both of CMU’s Robotics Institute. “Our team has a wealth of experience in operating robots in mines, enclosed spaces and the wild, and in coordinating the activity of multiple robots.”