Autonomous robots are robots that can perform desired tasks in unstructured environments without continuous human guidance. Many kinds of robots have some degree of autonomy. Different robots can be autonomous in different ways. A high degree of autonomy is particularly desirable in fields such as space exploration, cleaning floors, mowing lawns, and waste water treatment.
The following documents were received that pertain to research into the development and use of Autonomous Robots.
Cooperative Autonomous Robots for Reconnaissance [9 Pages, 25 KB] - Collaborating mobile robots equipped with WiFi transceivers are configured as a mobile ad-hoc network. Algorithms are developed to take advantage of the distributed processing capability inherent to multi-agent systems. The focus of this study was to determine the optimal amount of communication which allows the robots to share a sufficiently detailed global map, while keeping their processing time and energy usage to a minimum. A hardware testbed is described, which will be used to examine these trade-offs in an indoor laboratory-scale test area.
Current Technical Research Issues of Autonomous Robots Employed in Combat [6 Pages, 25 KB] - The recent upsurge in interest in autonomous robots for combat applications has focused considerable attention on several of the obvious technical issues (e.g. target recognition, autonomous navigation, route planning) . However, several technical issues exist which remain unapproached and, in some cases, even unacknowledged by the robotics community. This paper explores three such issues: (1) robot fault tolerance, (2) robot security and (3) multi-robot coordination. These issues are discussed in terms of the technology limitations and the research issues associated with those limitations. A common message which occurs several times during this discussion denotes the importance in modular implementation and well defined interfaces between subsystems in the development of autonomous combat robots.
If Our Robots Are So Smart, Why Aren't We All Rich? (The Challenges of Integrating Autonomous Robots) [43 Pages, 997 KB] - Presentation of military research efforts into the development and applications of robotic systems.SPACE AND NAVAL WARFARE SYSTEMS CENTER
Lethality and Autonomous Robots: An Ethical Stance [4 Pages, 196 KB] -This paper addresses a difficult issue confronting the designers of intelligent robotic systems: their potential use of lethality in warfare. To fully understand the consequences of the deployment of autonomous machines capable of taking human life under military doctrine and tactics, a systematic ethical evaluation needs to be conducted to guide users (e.g., warfighters), system designers, policy makers, and commanders regarding the intended future use of this technology. This study needs to be conducted prior to the deployment of these systems, not as an afterthought. Toward that end, a 3-year research effort on this topic is being conducted at the Georgia Institute of Technology for the Army Research Office, of which the authors are currently in the first year. Two topics are being investigated: What is acceptable?, and What can be done? A survey is being conducted on the use of lethality by autonomous systems. The survey investigates the points of view of various demographic groups on this issue, including the public, robotics researchers, policy makers, and military personnel. The authors also are designing a computational implementation of an ethical code within an existing autonomous robotic system (i.e., an artificial conscience) that will be able to govern an autonomous system's behavior in a manner consistent with the rules and laws of war. This paper describes the survey's design and administration. The independent variables used for the survey are as follows: (1) community type; (2) level of authority; (3) demographic variables, such as age, gender, level of education, etc.; and (4) the extent of participants' knowledge of robots and their capabilities. In addition to finding out what the terms of acceptance are for using lethal robots in warfare, the authors would like to see if, and how, the level of acceptance varies among the different community types, according to certain demographics factors, and for the three levels of autonomy.
A Technique for Coordinating Autonomous Robots [7 Pages, 910 KB] - This paper describes a technique for coordinating the subsystems of autonomous robots which takes advantage of a distributed blackboard mechanism and a high degree of functional distribution between subsystems to minimize communications and simplify the interfaces. Distributed blackboard memory contains a world model which represents knowledge about itself and its surroundings as collections of objects important to the task and the relations between them. Objects or instances are represented as lists of object-attribute- value-accuracy-confidence-timestamp tuples which are organized into a class tree with inheritance properties and active functions.