Robotics research boost with South American visit by USYD researchers


A DELEGATION from the University of Sydney is visiting Chile and Brazil to strengthen the university’s photonics and robotics research partnerships in the region.

Joint research projects are being developed in the region which involves robotics engineering, on the back of the mining boom and the wealth of natural resources in both South America and Australia.

Eduardo Nebot, Director of the Australian Centre for Field Robotics (ACFR) and a member of the University delegation, said that while the resources boom is boosting the Australian economy, it is also placing significant pressure on the mining industry to expand to meet the resource requirements of emerging economies.

“The industry’s challenge is to increase productivity and efficiency while maintaining safety standards and ensuring that its lucrative job opportunities remain attractive career options,” said Prof Nebot.

And automated robotic systems are the key to this. Current research and development in field robotics involves developing automation for tasks that are unsafe, inefficient, difficult or unpleasant for people to carry out.

Based in the USYD School of Aerospace, Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering, ACFR was established in 1997 to tackle field robotics applications in outdoor industrial environments. Since then it has successfully introduced robotics systems to cargo handling, stevedoring, autonomous underwater vehicles, aerospace and defence.

But mining in particular has attracted a large number of researchers looking to develop systems with enhanced perception, learning, automation and control.

ACFR research is also looking into human-machine interfaces. Operators of large machines can become overloaded with information from the vast array of different reporting and monitoring systems that are present in mining vehicles.

The ACFR is exploring a combination of sound, graphics, voice and tactile interfaces to address the problem. Although the primary focus is on the mining industry, they could also be applied to the wider area of intelligent transportation systems.