wonder department

Forklift Bots Prepare For War

Posted in bot. bots, robot, robot design, robots, service robots, warehouse robots by emmetcole on January 14, 2009
Jason Dorfman.

Researchers at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory have been testing a system designed to load and unload trucks autonomously or by remote control, to be used in dangerous places such as war zones. Photo Credit: Jason Dorfman.

Researchers at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) at MIT have developed a semi-autonomous forklift, designed to handle supplies in a war zone.

As the team explains, being a forklift operator in a war zone isn’t easy:

Currently, when supplies arrive at military outposts in war zones such as Iraq, people driving forklifts unload the pallets and put them into storage, and later load them onto trucks to take the material to where it’s needed. These forklift operators must often scramble for cover, slowing the work and putting them at risk.

When completed, the new robotic device will provide a safer way to handle pallet-loaded supplies of everything from truck tires to water containers and construction materials, says Matt Walter, a CSAIL
postdoctoral researcher with a lead role in the project. The device is designed to operate outdoors on uneven terrain such as gravel or packed earth.

Currently, when supplies arrive at military outposts in war zones such as Iraq, people driving forklifts unload the pallets and put them into storage, and later load them onto trucks to take the material to where it’s needed. These forklift operators must often scramble for cover, slowing the work and putting them at risk.

When completed, the new robotic device will provide a safer way to handle pallet-loaded supplies of everything from truck tires to water containers and construction materials, says Matt Walter, a CSAIL
postdoctoral researcher with a lead role in the project. The device is designed to operate outdoors on uneven terrain such as gravel or packed earth.

The CSAIL researchers made extensive use of computer code developed for other projects, including the autonomous vehicle MIT entered in the 2007 DARPA Grand Challenge auto race, in which unmanned cars navigated urban roads without human intervention.

Check out a video simulation of how the forklift bot might be used here. (I really like the voice recognition features and the ability to simply identify the pallets you want to move just by circling them on a small touchscreen.)

If you haven’t already, check out my previous post on warehouse bots here.

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2 Responses

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  1. [...] “semi-autonomous forklift” isn’t going to raise any eyebrows, but when you consider the huge amount of food, ammo, and [...]

  2. [...] “semi-autonomous forklift” isn’t going to raise any eyebrows, but when you consider the huge amount of food, ammo, and [...]


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