OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Human-Machine Interfaces
OBJECTIVE: Research, evaluate, and ultimately determine the proper sensing required to develop the software control needed to enable existing mobile heavy industrial robots (non-collaborative) to work in the same areas as humans and everchanging environments without the need for static safety fencing, door interlocks, and/or light/laser curtains.
DESCRIPTION: Recent developments in robotic controls have allowed the number of industrial robotic systems, both mobile and stationary, in sustainment and depot environments to grow significantly. These systems provide great improvements in safety, quality, agility, and throughput metrics. This growth shows no signs of slowing down. As these systems are scaled across more locations, the issue that needs to be addressed is the dynamic nature of the depot environment. In the depot environment, toolboxes move daily, work stands are continuously repositioned, and people must be present when these robotic systems are performing their work. The use of industrial robotics for aircraft maintenance operations currently requires very controlled (static) and well-protected “cells” that give the robot a place to work where it understands its surroundings and protects/prevents humans from entering that cell. This can severely limit where these robots can be used, and the safety devices used take up valuable floor space. In the case of mobile robots, this is even more difficult. These systems are designed to move from building to building, meaning there must be “safe cells” in each location so the systems can be used in those buildings. This multiplies the lost space problem by the number of buildings the robot has the potential to operate in. With the proper sensing and controls in place, these systems will be able to function efficiently in dynamic environments and allow for safe interactions with humans. Existing technologies allow the interaction between humans and industrial robots, but again only in very static and controlled situations. The development of this technology will allow this interaction to expand outside of the “safe cells”, making industrial robotic systems (especially mobile systems) even more agile and impactful for all production sectors in governmental and private manufacturing areas. The discrete defense need addressed in this will be more effective and more reconfigurable industrial layout designs and utilizations, hence enhancng thoughputs such aircraft and other weapon system availabilities.
PHASE I: As this is a Direct-to-Phase-II (D2P2) topic, no Phase I awards will be made as a result of this topic. To qualify for this D2P2 topic, the Government expects the Offeror to demonstrate feasibility by means of a prior “Phase I-type” effort that does not constitute work undertaken as part of a prior SBIR/STTR funding agreement. For this topic, the Government expects that Offerors demonstrate the ability to detect unexpected obstacles and humans with COTS sensors, and demonstrate the accuracy and integration of these sensors into robotic systems.
PHASE II: Develop working prototype to detect and respond to unexpected obstacles and humans and command the robotic system to respond accordingly. Maximizing the efficiency of the robotic system by allowing the robot to operate in a real-world depot and other manufacturing environments in both military and private sectors with minimal external safety systems.
PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Refine hardware and software to increase accuracy and reliability. Achieve production-ready state for marketing to the Air Force, other related federal agencies, and private industries involved in all manner of production or manufacturing.
- Villani, et al. “Survey on human–robot collaboration in industrial settings: Safety, intuitive interfaces and applications.” November 2018, Survey on human–robot collaboration in industrial settings: Safety, intuitive interfaces and applications - ScienceDirect;
- Moretz. . “Mobile Robot Standard R15.08-1-2020 – What You Need to Know.” February, 2021, https://www.automate.org/industry-insights/mobile-robot-standard-r15-08-1-2020-what-you-need-to-know;
- Pedrocchi, et al. “Safe Human-Robot Cooperation in an Industrial Environment”, January 2013, Safe Human-Robot Cooperation in an Industrial Environment - Nicola Pedrocchi, Federico Vicentini, Malosio Matteo, Lorenzo Molinari Tosatti, 2013 (sagepub.com);
KEYWORDS: Mobile Robotics, Industrial Robots, Human Sensing, Safety