The Institute of Robotics and Mechatronics is working on autonomous mobile robots for applications like planetary exploration and search and rescue. This means that the environment is unknown, unstructured and often difficult. A dependency on an external infrastructure like GPS or the existence of a permanent communication link is avoided.
We are building systems, or adapting commercial systems to our needs, which can crawl, drive or fly. Our systems use methods for autonomous navigation and exploration, based on stereo vision and data from an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU). The idea is to take as much as possible workload from the human operator by making the systems as autonomous as possible. The operator should only define the goal, e.g. in form of target points, a search area, etc.
Ongoing work includes the cooperation of multiple autonomous robots. The aim is to complement skills in a heterogeneous team (e.g. driving and flying) or to increase robustness and reduce mission time using a homogeneous team. In any case, each mobile system should be able to fulfill its job on its own, without dependency on a central station, communication link, etc.