Tag Archives: robots

How army of drones and robots could make Leeds the world’s first self-repairing city

Leeds could become the first ‘self-repairing city’ in the world by 2035 as robotics engineers work on developing drones that can prevent potholes.

Chris Burn reports. Leeds, 2035. Moments after scanning a city road and identifying a crack in the surface around the size of a 50p piece on a night-time patrol, a drone navigates itself down to the site of the problem, lands and fills in the defect using a 3D asphalt printer. What could have eventually developed into a serious pothole is fixed instantly and the drone flies off to search for its next assignment.

Professor Rob Richardson, from The School of Mechanical Engineering, at University of Leeds, along with his team are pioneering the use of robotic drone technology to repair potholes in the future as part of a Government-funded project called ‘Self Repairing Cities’.

It is a scenario that, despite the increasing prominence of drones in daily life, still sounds like science-fiction. But for the past three years, a team of robotics engineers at the University of Leeds’s School of Mechanical Engineering have been making considerable progress on turning the concept into a reality as they work on a multi-million pound, Government-supported project to turn potholes into a thing of the past.

Like almost every city and town in the country, Leeds has a considerable pothole problem – with over 10,000 reported to the council by members of the public between 2014 and 2017. But the city could soon be leading the way globally in dealing with the problem, as well as deploying drones to repair street lights and sending hybrid robots to live in utility pipes which they continually inspect, monitor and repair when necessary. It is all part of a wider scientific ambition called ‘Self-Repairing Cities’ that has the ambitious aim of ensuring there is no disruption from streetworks in UK cities by 2050.

The vision for the project states: “With the aid of Leeds City Council, we want to make Leeds the first city in the world that is fully maintained autonomously by 2035.” Professor Rob Richardson, operational director for the robotics element of the project, says despite the major changes potentially on the horizon, it should not mean drones constantly buzzing over everyone’s heads. “We see them as being like urban foxes,” he explains. “There are not going to be drones over your head constantly. You might see them in particular times of day in particular places but you won’t see them all the time. It wouldn’t be invasive.” The drones could be in operation in Leeds by 2035.

The five-year project, officially called ‘Balancing the Impact of City Infrastructure Engineering on Natural Systems Using Robots’, started back in January 2016 after £4.2m of funding was secured from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. It was one of seven ‘Engineering Grand Challenges’ awarded money by the agency to provide innovative solutions to issues such as tackling air pollution.

The Leeds scheme is also being supported by researchers from the universities Birmingham, Southampton and University College London, with project partners including Leeds Council, Balfour Beatty, the National Grid and Yorkshire Water. One of the main achievements of the projects to date has been combined work by the UCL and Leeds teams on developing 3D asphalt printing technology – which Richardson describes as a “world-first” – that can be used by the drones.

Work is now taking place on developing a scanning and decision-making system for such drones. Richardson says there are other possibilities for identifying small cracks in the road surface, such as through self-driving cars, buses and bin lorries that would have scanners attached to them as they went about their normal operations in ‘smart cities’ that use electronically-collected data to manage resources such as traffic lights effectively. The system would also allow for temporary road closures if necessary when drones are working on repairs. The investment of public money is dwarfed by the amounts currently spent on dealing with potholes alone.

In last October’s Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond assigned an extra £420m to local councils for tackling potholes on top of an existing fund of £300m, while the annual cost of resurfacing roads in the UK is estimated to be more than £1bn. Richardson says the potential benefits go beyond immediate financial implications. “Right now, if you have got a bad pothole, you need people, big vehicles and disruption through closing the road and causing pollution to get rid of it,” he explains. “We want to change that and repair things before they become potholes.” Richardson adds the current costs for repairing potholes are difficult to estimate. “You can look at the cost of a person and the hours they work to do it. But the real cost is if there are not prompt repairs, roads gets further damaged.

If you have to close roads for long periods of time, congestion and pollution builds up. There are wider costs far more than a worker’s hourly rate. Our vision is by 2035 to have this kind of technology in a city, with potentially Leeds being the first one. Our grand vision is by 2050 that the whole of the UK will have self-repairing cities. At the end of the five years we want to show what can be done.” How Leeds could become world’s first city to use drones to prevent potholes While such changes may make life better for drivers and council budgets, there would obviously be an impact on employment as technology may make many jobs redundant.

The hope is for a “win-win situation” where better jobs are created, taxpayers’ money is used more efficiently and our air, water and wildlife are protected – but a mid-term report examining the progress of the project to date has suggested it may not be quite so simple. “In the past, every industrial revolution has seen existing jobs become obsolete, labour being replaced with machines, and yet new tasks have emerged that acted as a counterbalance to the displacement of workers,” it says. “Similar to the past, the robotics and AI revolution is set to displace a large proportion of the current workforce. But the concern this time is that if robots/AI can learn most of the new tasks, the creation of new jobs may not be a sufficient counterbalance for the loss of obsolete ones.

With uncertainty writ large over this revolution, it will be the responsibility of the state to safeguard the interest of all members of society and make sure that those who stand to lose the most from impending disruptions do not fall through the cracks.” The major disruption at Gatwick airport around Christmas in which drone sightings grounded about 1,000 flights raised public concerns about the use of the technology.

Leeds and Southampton universities have already been working with the cities of Bradford and Southampton to identify potential challenges and risks and find a safe way of overcoming them. Drones have been used to provide real-time information to firefighters in Bradford to give early warning of structural problems and identify hotspots and people in need of help at incidents.

Richardson says: “Smart cities currently check data and understand people flow. That doesn’t do proactive systems. But we are talking about cities that are able to understand what is happening and be able to react and do things. “All of this stuff is overseen by people, they are systems based on a framework set and regulated by humans. As with all technology, regulations are there for a reason. If it is done correctly, it brings good.” Project achievements growing Achievements of the project so far include creating technology to 3D print asphalt which is tougher than ordinary asphalt and demonstrating that a printer can be attached to a drone, flown to a damage location and operated. Other developments include an inspection robot that can operate autonomously in a one-inch pipe,

with wireless power transfer for charging and the simulation of how cheap ‘disposable’ robots can efficiently locate potholes or other defects in roads. A spokesman said: “The findings will be used to develop the next generation of robots for infrastructure inspection and repair, but with applications in any field that might benefit from the introduction of robotics and autonomous systems.”

Source: Yorkshire Evening Post

 

Autonomous Robots Take Over At South Korea’s Largest Airport

LG Robots to Deliver Expert Service for Visitors to Korea

Airport Guide Robot 01

As South Korea prepares for the largest winter sporting event in its history, LG Electronics (LG) is focusing on improving automated services at the main hub for the world’s travelers – Incheon International Airport (IIA). Starting on July 21, LG will put into trial service a number of Airport Guide Robots and Airport Cleaning Robots at the award-winning airport to assist travelers arriving and departing Korea. The Airport Guide Robot will roam the airport providing information and assistance to visitors while the Airport Cleaning Robot will be on hand to keep the floors impeccably clean.

By dispatching its robots to one of the largest and busiest airports in the world, LG will be able to provide its robotic services to approximately 57 million travelers who pass through the airport every year. While the robots are officially going into trial service today, they have been a familiar presence to frequent travelers since February, when they began beta testing at IIA. LG engineers have been fine tuning the robots for the past five months, improving their performance based on the data and experience collected during the beta test.

Equipped with LG’s voice recognition platform, the Airport Guide Robot understands four different languages – Korean, English, Chinese, and Japanese – the four most popular languages spoken at the airport, in order to provide assistance verbally. The robot can connect to the airport’s central server to provide information regarding boarding time and locations of restaurants, shops, and much more. With a quick scan of a boarding pass, the Airport Guide Robot can escort the late or lost traveler to the right departure gate on time.

The Airport Cleaning Robot takes LG HOM-BOT’s powerful cleaning performance, autonomous navigation, and object-avoidance capability and applies them to a commercial, public environment. This robot detects the areas that require the most frequent cleaning, stores those locations in its database and calculates the most efficient routes to get there.

With these airport robots, LG is demonstrating its initiative to develop and expand its commercial robot business as a future growth engine. Currently, LG’s robot business is divided into two sectors: home and commercial. LG’s home robots include the HOM-BOT vacuum cleaner and the new Hub Robot while LG’s commercial business consists of robots specially designed to provide services in public areas such as airports, hotels and banks.

“LG is dedicated to the advancement and development of its robot technologies which includes navigation, voice recognition, natural language processing, and of course, DeepThinQ,” said Song Dae-hyun, president of LG Electronics Home Appliance & Air Solutions Company. “It is this kind of effort and innovation that will drive LG forward in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”

Airport Guide Robot 01

Source: LG

Starship Technologies launches testing program for self-driving delivery robots with major industry partners

robot

 

Cities in UK, Germany and Switzerland to experience robotic local delivery

Starting from July, millions of people will have a chance to encounter autonomous delivery robots on the pavements of the United Kingdom, Germany and Switzerland as part of the testing program announced today by Starship Technologies and major industry partners. A similar program will be announced for the United States shortly.

The largest European food delivery company Just Eat, leading German parcel delivery company Hermes, leading German retailer Metro Group, and innovative London food delivery startup Pronto.co.uk will test the delivery robots developed by Starship Technologies, a company launched in 2014 by Skype co-founders.

As part of the program, dozens of robots will be deployed in five cities to run first test deliveries and introduce the innovative devices to the general public.

“By launching partnerships with major companies we will enter the next phase in our development. While Starship has been testing the robots in 12 countries in the last nine months, we will now develop know-how on running real robotic delivery services,” said Ahti Heinla, co-founder, CEO and CTO of Starship Technologies.

Robots developed by Starship Technologies are meant for delivering packages, groceries and food to consumers in a 2-3 mile radius. The robots can drive autonomously while being monitored by human operators in control centers. Introduced to European and American cities since the end of last year, the robots have already driven close to 5,000 miles and met over 400,000 people without a single accident.

“The partners we’re working with are at the top of their game – passionate, driven and quick to embrace new technology, making them the perfect choice for us to truly demonstrate our robotic delivery solution,” said Allan Martinson, Chief Operating Officer of Starship Technologies. “We’re sure to come up against challenges on our journey, but our aim will never change – to re-define convenience and customer service for the consumer, whilst making the last mile industry for businesses cost effective, efficient and profitable”.

David Buttress, CEO of Just Eat said “We are continuously looking for ways to use technology to make our customers’ lives easier – whether that’s how people order or pay for their food or how the food is delivered. Starship are right at the forefront of innovation in the delivery sector and so it’s a natural fit for us to be partnering with them to bring delivery robots to our high streets.”

Frank Rausch, CEO of Hermes Germany, said: “We are very proud to be Starship’s exclusive logistics partner in Germany. At Hermes we believe that parcel delivery’s main goal is to fully satisfy the customers’ needs in receiving their online shopping orders as fast and convenient as possible. Nobody likes to spend hours waiting for the courier just to have a parcel delivered. Therefore, individually scheduled delivery services will become increasingly important within the coming years. By testing Starship robots for the last mile, we use the opportunity to boost our service level and make parcel delivery even easier and more comfortable than it is today.”

James Roy Poulter, CEO and Co-founder at Pronto said “As soon as we saw the Starship delivery robot we knew this was the solution we’d been looking for in our mission to make it even easier for people to access quality, affordable food at the touch of a button.

We can’t wait to launch this test programme in London and roll it out in time across other cities as we expand our reach both in the UK and abroad. We hope to see the streets lined with thousands of these robots bringing people their hot, ready-to-eat Pronto meal on-demand and providing an even more cost-effective, efficient and environmentally friendly delivery solution for our customers.”

The test programs will run in London, Düsseldorf, Bern and another German city to start, before moving to several other European and American cities. Starship Technologies will also continue testing in Tallinn, Estonia where its R&D facilities are located.

ABOUT STARSHIP TECHNOLOGIES

Starship Technologies is building a fleet of autonomous robots designed to deliver goods locally in 15-30 minutes within a 2-3 mile radius. The robots drive autonomously but are monitored by humans who can take over control at any time. Launched by two Skype co-founders, Ahti Heinla and Janus Friis, Starship Technologies’ aim is to fundamentally reshape how goods are shipped and delivered, and make local delivery, almost free. Starship is a European company with Estonian R&D headquarters and Business headquarters in London. The company employs 55 people. Former Skype co-founder Ahti Heinla serves as the company’s CEO and CTO and serial tech entrepreneur Allan Martinson is Chief Operating

Source: Starship Technologies

 

Vodafone provide connectivity for Robotic Exoskeleton

exso bionics

 

EKSO BIONICS ROBOTIC EXOSKELETONS GAIN GLOBAL CONNECTIVITY WITH VODAFONE IOT TECHNOLOGY

With Vodafone Global IoT SIM, Ekso Bionics Manages Device Diagnostics and Data to Help Improve the Mobility of Stroke and Spinal Cord Injury Patients

Vodafone will be connecting the world’s first and only exoskeleton that is FDA cleared for use with both stroke patients and spinal cord injuries – the Ekso GT™ from Ekso Bionics®. Vodafone’s network and global Internet of Things (IoT) SIM will ensure reliable communications for diagnostics and improved access to patient data, helping to improve the user experience with the suit.

Robotic exoskeletons are ready to wear, battery-powered robots that are strapped over the users’ clothing, enabling individuals to achieve mobility, strength, or endurance not otherwise possible.

The Ekso GT can provide adaptive amounts of power to either side of the patient’s body, helping to improve results for patients. The suit allows physical therapists to mobilise patients earlier, more frequently and with a greater number of high intensity steps, all of which will aid recovery.

Vodafone Group’s Head of IoT for the Americas Andrew Morawski said, “The Internet of Things is enabling all types of medical devices to be connected anywhere in the world, which is directly affecting the care that patients are receiving. The focus that Ekso Bionics has on helping stroke and spinal cord injury patients to increase mobility is making a significant impact on the quality of life for its users.”

“We are in business to help people achieve the remarkable, and we can do this most effectively with best in class partners. We chose Vodafone to provide a single global solution that ensures seamless connectivity, no matter where a rehabilitation hospital is located,” said Thomas Looby, Ekso Bionics’ chief executive officer. “With Vodafone IoT technology, we can monitor how our exoskeletons are performing in real time, providing therapists with data on how the patients’ rehabilitation is progressing.”

Ekso Bionic has been able to simplify its manufacturing process by using the same Vodafone SIM for all suits globally as well as having a single worldwide partner delivering a managed service. Ekso Bionics’ Ekso GT is currently available in the United States, Mexico, Canada, South Africa, and in most European countries. The Ekso GT is offered in more than 150 leading rehabilitation institutions around the world and has helped enable its users to take more than 50 million steps not otherwise possible.

Source: Vodafone