Academic Contact: Jordan Boyle
Academic Staff: Dr Jordan Boyle, Dr Andrew Jackson, Dr Andrew Kemp, Dr Charles Fox, Dr Chris Trayner, Dr Zhiqiang Zhang, Professor Abbas A. Dehghani-Sanij, Professor Ian Robertson, Professor Netta Cohen, Professor Robert Richardson
Industrial Partners: Dassault Systemes, BAE systems, MBDA and Scoutek UK.
Exploration Robotics is all about sending mobile robots into natural or artificial environments where people can’t go (or don’t want to go) in order to gather valuable sensory data and, sometimes, perform physical tasks.
Some of the diverse scenarios and applications in which exploration robotics have the potential to make a significant impact include: Defence and Security; Search and Rescue; Archaeology; Environmental Monitoring; Nuclear decommissioning; Space Exploration; Oil and Gas industry.
Within the broader context of Field Robotics, Exploration Robotics is something of a catch-all, describing most real-world mobile robot applications that are not covered by Service Robotics or Infrastructure Robotics. Some of the use cases under Infrastructure Robotics could also be described as Exploration Robotics, but the former also includes many examples that are more repetitive than is typical of Exploration Robotics. Compared to Service Robots, Exploration Robots must usually operate in environments that are less structured, and more challenging from a locomotion perspective.
Indeed, due to the challenging environments into which Exploration Robots are typically deployed, the locomotion system is often the main focus of the design. Bio-inspired locomotion strategies are often beneficial, drawing on research in Bio-Robotic Control. Overall platform design and system integration are also a common priority, in order to create robots that can survive in hostile environments long enough to perform their mission. They also utilise other types of Underpinning Science and Technology: Exploration Robots must often be small, therefore benefitting from Future Manufacturing Processes; their main purpose is typically to gather information, so they require advanced Sensing Technologies; operating remotely in complex environments, they benefit from advances in Communications and Networks. Furthermore, although there is usually still a human in the loop, exploration robotics are becoming increasingly autonomous, so this field also utilises development in AI for Robotics.