Kairos Autonomi:Strap-on Autonomy Systems for Existing Vehicles

    Kairos Unmanned Vehicles Collage


Ongoing Research Efforts

July 26, 2012


We announced on Tuesday that we intend to apply our Altered Thinking approach to another Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) Robotics Challenge (DRC) by developing a mobile humanoid robot that can perform human-like tasks. You can read the press release on our web site.

We have already begun development of a platform that can assist in disaster response scenarios using strength, endurance, visual sensing, decision making and self-control through supervised autonomy. The platform will incorporate technologies from the Pronto4 Robotic Appliqué Kit. The primary motor drivers will be LADD actuators (more information below) pioneered in Utah. Other components will include third-party dexterous manipulators, cameras, lidar, battery power and other sensors. The mobile platform will enable delivery of dexterous manipulators to remote or inaccessible areas to perform human tasks.

We have begun to assemble a team for this effort; we will be responsible for all of the hardware, firmware and data serving aspects. We are planning to work with Autonomous Solutions, Inc., for advanced perception, and other third parties that specialize in dexterous manipulators. If you are interested in working with us on this effort, feel free to contact us.

The DARPA Robotics Challenge has two objectives: first, to create robots that are able to execute multi-faceted tasks in difficult situations using common tools and equipment such as hand tools and motor vehicles; second, to make these software and hardware products affordable.

This effort will not only expand our core product offering, but also introduce Kairos’ autonomy approach to a wider audience.

We intend for our mobile platform to model a centaur robot that utilizes advantages inherit in humanoid, quadruped and hexapod robots(Tsuda, Shinozaki, & and Nakatsu, 2008). Quadruped and hexapod robots have the ability to maintain balance over uneven ground (Tsuda, Shinozaki, & and Nakatsu, 2008), while humanoid robots can manipulate and articulate with manipulator arms.

The centaur will utilize Linear to Angular Displacement Device (LADD) actuators because of their ability to handle extremely high loads while maintaining a light weight (Mennitto & and Buehler, 1996). Because they are available in many configurations with variables of diameter, length, fiber strength, fiber count, and concentricity, they can be implemented parametrically exactly as needed and their performance can be readily characterized. They have a low bulk and require little, if any, maintenance. We believe LADD actuators are under-utilized in current robotic manipulation and actuation, and intend with this effort to bring viable LADD alternatives to market.

We have already demonstrated with its Pronto4 Robotic Applique Kit that it can deliver proven, capable, cost-effective, and reproducible technologies within the robotics market. Kairos was one of the few entrants in the DARPA Ground and Urban Challenges to directly commercialize the technologies developed for that competition. Proper assessment of the future market requirements allowed Kairos to focus development and deployment of technologies that match needs and requirements. Kairos intends to apply the same principles for this competition and market the technology developed for this effort to the broader robotics market.

Please check back, as we will be updating this information on a regular basis!

About Kairos Autonomi Research Efforts

Kairos Autonomi utilizes multiple resources for ongoing research efforts as we push forward the market of agnostic autonomy. These focused research efforts are primarily vertical in nature, solving areas of challenge and adding desired functionality for our unmanned ground vehicle technology. All of the developed technologies are applied to our premier product, the Pronto4 Agnostic Autonomy System.

Research is performed collaboratively with Kairos Autonomi and various industry organizations (Fortune 500 companies, small businesses, etc.) and military groups. Kairos Autonomi also utilizes resources from three (3) local research universities for targeted solutions and ongoing sponsored research.

The following is an overview of various research efforts and technology areas that Kairos Autonomi has previously explored.

Calibration-less Trailer Backing Algorithm, 2009
Drive a vehicle forward along a course and observe information about the vehicle and trailer position. Use this information to calibrate in real-time a trailer backing model. Provide an algorithm such that the vehicle can back a trailer up along a path.

Status: Kairos Autonomi has developed and produced a portable, agnostic trailer sensor, and we have also constructed a trailer trainer. University of Utah post-graduate students are currently using this equipment to research develop algorithms for this technology.

Convoy Assembly and Disassembly, 2009
The following of one vehicle by another in the form of a convoy for the transportation of supplies is the cornerstone of the United States military's ability to succeed in conflict. The following vehicle is guided in one of these fashions:

  • Global control by a master or command center, it places each vehicle
  • Relative control where one vehicle reports its position and time to the following vehicle
  • Absolute control where all vehicles know the course and their time at a specific waypoint
  • Physical tether connection between vehicles

Assuming that an approach for one vehicle following another is achieved, the larger issue remains for the assembly and disassembly of the convoy. How does one get all the vehicles positioned into the convoy and then positioned again once they have reached the other side?

Status: Kairos Autonomi has developed software and hardware for relative and absolute following of vehicles in a convoy. We are continuing to move these approaches forward.

M113 Tracked Vehicle Agnostic Autonomy, 2009
The addition of skid-steer platforms controlled by the Pronto4 is a significant advancement that will improve the coverage and flexibility of the system. A clamp-on kit can be created where a stock Pronto4 is adapted to the levers and controls of an M113 APC. The M113A2 uses two levers for steering, as well as a foot pedal for throttle control. The diesel engine is arrested by restricting either fuel or air intake. A pull choke exists in the M113 to shut off air intake to the engine. Safety with this type of system is more difficult and critical because it really has no electrical method of shut-off. The goal would be to use existing hardware and software with adaptations that transform such that all of the features from the Pronto4 wheel-based system can be transferred to the skid-steer platform.

Status: Kairos Autonomi has created the transforms and added them to the controller. Because of this, only steering angle, throttle and brake are required for skid-steer operation. Sufficient flexibility is placed within the transform to allow for most expected and unexpected field adjustments during testing.

Kairos Autonomi has also created an M113 cockpit that has served as qualification of the hardware and software. A trial fit has been performed on the M113. Kairos Autonomi is aggressively pursuing field testing.

Field Redeployable Overwatch, 2009
During a convoy operation it is often desirable to easily view convoy operations from an overhead position using an asset that can travel with the convoy and be stationed above the convoy as required. This asset will perform visual surveying, radio telemetry, relaying and control. The concept will be to launch and recover in a repeated fashion (land) a UAV from a moving UGV. While the UAV is attached to the UGV it is refueled and information is transferred. While the UAV is separated from the UGV it relays information and video imagery.

Status: Kairos Autonomi has purchased the UAV airframe and resultant controls. Autopilot software has been located and several autopilots have been identified. Discussions with L-3 Communications Systems-West regarding teaming on this project is on-going and would provide for integration of radio platforms and other required capabilities. Kairos Autonomi has begun mechanical design and construction of the launch and landing system. This may be the subject of a CRADA/MOU with the Navy.