Inside Unmanned Systems

DEC 2016-JAN 2017

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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33 unmanned systems inside December 2016/January 2017 ENGINEERING. PRACTICE. POLICY. said. "That took about four months to get in- stalled and we've been using the OTTO for three months. The first month was a soft start where we only used it certain hours a day to get the process going and employees used to having the self-guided vehicles in the facility." Insights for Driverless Cars Car manufacturers working to develop driver- less passenger cars might learn a thing or two from the technology enabling self-driving in- dustrial vehicles. In fact, Rendall believes the indoor autonomous transport sector will lead the way for self-driving outdoor vehicles. "A busy factory is like a small indoor city," Rendall said. "We have control over infrastruc- ture and intersections and security, so it's an ideal proving ground for concepts that can later roll out to outdoor cities." When talking about autonomous passenger cars, the conversation usually centers on vehicle- to-vehicle and vehicle-to-infrastructure commu- nication, Rendall said, and how to make those communications effective and secure. Compa- nies like Clearpath Robotics are already deal- ing with, and learning from, those challenges indoors. For example, he sees an opportunity for intersections to be managed much differently than they are today. If autonomous vehicles com- municate with other vehicles and infrastructure, why is there a need for traffic lights? "We're encountering those problems in fac- tories today. That's very exciting," Rendall said. "I think outdoor self-driving vehicles will get there, but it will take decades before we have enough driverless vehicles on the road to en- able that type of change." Well-established safety guidelines and regu- lations represent another advantage indoor self- driving vehicles have over driverless passenger cars, Christensen said. Manufacturing facilities and warehouses have worked within these safety constraints for years and understand the redun- dant safety systems and risk assessment required for autonomous travel. While the U.S. Depart- ment of Transportation is working on setting guidance and regulations for self-driving pas- senger cars, Christensen sees this as a challenge. Most car manufacturers continue to re- search a variety of sensors, looking for the right mix that will provide these vehicles with all the environmental information they need to ma- neuver safely on their own, Christensen said. While this approach makes sense, technology will continue to evolve, and as it does, he sees one sensor emerging as a standalone option, much like the stereo cameras used in Seegrid's vision-guided vehicles. "If you require multiple sensors to get a thorough understanding of the environment, that introduces a tricky variable from an en- gineering and regulatory standpoint," Chris- tensen said. "If I have LiDAR and a camera unit and combine them to give me a view of the world, how I combine them creates a variable I need to test independently to have a safety rated system. That's one of the things we can teach. With our stereo cameras we have a sensor that can give you very dense data and 3-D range data to an accurate and precise level. You get both image data and While SEEGRID HAS SUCCESSFULLY INTEGRATED STEREO CAMERAS into its vision-guided vehicles, that victory came after the company's founder spent years studying the technology and figuring out how these cameras can provide a clear understand- ing of the environment, Vice President of Products and Services Jeff Christensen said. It's very challenging from a software and algorithmic perspective to effectively deal with the data these cameras gather in real time. "It's tricky stuff and a newer player on the block than monocular cameras, radar and ultrasound in the driverless passenger car space," he said. "Many people are looking to LiDAR as an easier mechanism, but from the complexity and cost and data density perspective, stereo cameras are superior in those respects. More automakers will be looking at stereo cameras as range sensors." THE BENEFITS OF STEREO CAMERAS "THE OTTO CAN look all the way around it and understand where it is based on the layout of the facility. If something is blocking it, it can turn around and take another route. It knows the facility." Patricio Espinosa, director of Americas repair operations, GE Healthcare

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