Development of Deminer-Assisting Robotic Tools at Tokyo Institute of Technology
Robot operation and interaction in unstructured environment is difficult. The problem becomes even more difficult if the environment is hazardous, presents a potentially wide temperature range, and is subject to rain, dust and other natural factors. Such conditions are typical in minefields. Current demining technology is slow, costly and dangerous, and has virtually not evolved in the last 60 years except for heavy and armoured soil-digging machines that are limited to well-conditioned
... Assisting human deminers in the mine searching task, or giving them better means of protection during the dangerous task of soil prodding and mine neutralization is challenging. However it is worth pursuing this goal: not only will deminers benefit from the development, but the demining industry itself will benefit from it with eventually faster paces, more efficient detection and removal rates, and this at reduced costs. The Tokyo Institute of Technology started developing robotic tools and machines for humanitarian demining more than a decade ago. The first steps were performed literally, with a quadruped walking robot named TITAN VIII (cf. Figure 1 ) that was able to adapt its gait to navigate on difficult terrain and use one of its legs as a manipulator to scan the soil for mines, cut vegetation or even dig the ground [Hirose & Kato, 1998; Kato & Hirose, 2001]. A sophisticated system including a tool-changer and tele-operation functionality allowed the robot to perform the most dangerous tasks without proximate assistance of humans. Scenarios in which one of the robot's legs was blown off by accidentally stepping onto a mine were overcome by appropriately readjusting its walking gait for 3 legs. Other research institutions and laboratories have followed into Tokyo Institute of Technology's footsteps by developing legged robots for humanitarian demining; one example is COMET-1 [Nonami et al., 2000], a 6-legged walking robot equipped with several cameras, an attitude control sensor mechanism, and 6 small metal detectors integrated into the extremity of each leg. Another legged example is the pneumatic multisensor demining robot [Rachkov et al., 2005] , that can be equipped with a metal detector, an infrared detector and a chemical explosive sensor for mine detection.