– We still have not realized the amplitude of the success. However, being among the top in the world in robotics is an amazing achievement not only for our team but also for the university and its general position in Robotics, says George Nikolakopoulos, Professor of Robotics and Automation and Head of the Robotics Team at Luleå university of Technology.
– This is also a reminder that you can achieve a lot with hard work and dedication.
The Robotics group is part of NASA’s team – CoSTAR – in the DARPA Subterranean Challenge, the most advanced and prestigious Robotics and AI competition in the world. Besides NASA, the team consists of the California Institute of Technology, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology. In total, eleven teams are in the competition, they are all top participants from the area of robotics and autonomous systems in general from all around the world.
Drone in a mine
The challenge consists of three competitions and recently the first one took place in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In Pittsburgh was Christoforos Kanellakis, PhD student at Luleå University of Technology who has spent the last seven months at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory. The challenge was to map, identify, and report artifacts in a mine by utilizing autonomous systems and the teams brought both UAV’s and ground robots to the spot. The challenge suited the Robotics Group perfectly since they have years of experience from autonomous robotic operations.
– Many research groups around the world have managed to fly autonomous drones successfully in labs indoors. However, few except our group have the capability and knowledge to fly outdoors and hence narrow the gap between theory and the real world, says George Nikolakopoulos.
And more challenges are coming up since the Subterranean Challenge is not over. The second challenge, an urban circuit, is in February next year, and in August that same year, is the third challenge; a cave circuit.
– The secret of our success is very simple; it is continuous and uninterrupted work and focus on the objectives of the competition. We have put a huge amount of time in these activities, at nights, weekends and holidays. Now we prepare and look forward to the next stage of the competition, says George Nikolakopoulos.