NEW YORK —The Robotics and Computer Vision Laboratory at Fordham University has received a $49,586 grant from the Army Research Office of the U.S. Department of Defense to develop a prototype surveillance robot.
Damian Lyons, Ph.D., an associate professor of computer and information science and director of the robotics laboratory, and Frank Hsu, Ph.D., the Clavius Distinguished Professor and chair of the department of computer and information science at Fordham, are using the award money to develop a prototype robotic device that could be used to scope out potentially dangerous areas and help soldiers avoid sniper fire on military missions.
The military uses robotic machines to conduct automated surveillance, thwart ambushes, and locate tanks and mines. They have recently been used along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border to enter and explore suspected underground Al Qaeda chambers. These robotic surveillance devices use legs for transport and are extremely agile, but consume large amounts of energy.
According to the Fordham researchers, they are developing a prototype that incorporates the use of wheels and legs to minimize energy consumption. The machine, called a “rotopod,” is a tripod-like device with cameras mounted on adjustable legs and a rotating, off-centered weight on top.
Of the project’s “unconventional approach,” Lyons said, “Some of the best functioning robots are built in not-so-obvious ways.”
Moving in a spiral pattern by pivoting on its legs, while touching the ground multiple times per rotation, the rotopod would be able to follow one of a variety of non-repeating patterns, making it especially useful for military reconnaissance.
Lyons and Hsu co-founded Fordham’s Robotics and Computer Vision Laboratory in the summer of 2002, with much of the research falling into the main categories of robotics, automated surveillance and augmented reality.