The coordinators of this Topic Group are:
Ladislav Vargovcik: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rustam Stolkin: R.Stolkin@cs.bham.ac.uk
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Welcome to the TG on Harsh Environment Robotics
The exceptional interest of robotics experts and industry end-users in all workshops on harsh and mainly nuclear robotics held at the ERF 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019 showed that numerous researchers and engineers are encountering similar problems and are interested in creating a common platform for information exchange, networking and collaboration.
Motivated initially by the Fukushima nuclear disaster response, workshops on robotics for nuclear applications were established bi-annually also at IROS 2013,2015,2017 and 2019.
Discussions at those workshops made it clear that a new euRobotics Topic Group is needed in this area.
This TG would essentially deal with robotics for environments that are so extremely harsh that it requires robots not only because humans cannot work in these conditions but neither standard robots can withstand the impact of these environments. Such robots need to have specific design features and adjustments, including construction, mechatronics, navigation, communication and control systems, in order to work effectively in the given environment.
Many of the design issues related to the interaction with extreme harsh environment have not been adequately solved so far and will require significant effort on the part of researchers.
The main TG target will be to identify the gaps that stand in the way of effective exploitation of robotic systems in harsh environment and in defining challenges and strategic steps in their research for maintaining the leading role of European robotics in this rapidly growing market.
All kinds of robotics technologies need to be especially adjusted for this type of harsh environment (advanced manipulation, navigation and perception, increasing autonomy capabilities, advanced human-robot control interfaces, sensing and AI, including increased autonomy).
Thus this TG offers the opportunity for highly interdisciplinary collaborations, and strong links to numerous other TG activities.
The following are some important examples of extreme environment robot applications:
Applications: Nuclear power plants - radioactive waste handling, technological operations during the decommissioning process, situation analysis, initial intervention and dealing with consequences following accidents in NPPs; inspection, maintenance and repair of technological equipment in large accelerators (CERN, DESY, XFEL), nuclear reactors (ITER, Sellafield, Bohunice, Chernobyl, Fukushima), space applications, etc.
Chemically aggressive environments
Applications: situation analysis, dealing with consequences as well as people rescue following accidents in chemical plants and at major leakages of aggressive chemicals in the process of their transport or storage, cleaning of tanks used for carrying aggressive chemical substances, inspection of oil platforms
Extreme temperatures and pressures
Extreme heat applications: fighting extreme fires, furnace lining repairs (guniting), handling of hot objects in foundries, forge shops, etc. Extreme cold applications include e.g. space exploration, and also polar exploration. Vacuum operations (e.g. space), and extreme pressures (deep ocean sampling) can pose very complex challenges, e.g. lubricants for joints become problematic.
Extremely dusty/abrasive environment
Applications: manipulation or technological operations in foundries, in metallurgical plants, cleaning of sludge containing abrasive particles, security applications in sandy terrain e.g. explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) robots. As well as robot design problems, dusty/smokey/murky-underwater scenes provide extreme challenges to vision and perception systems.
Applications: inspection and repairs of gas and oil pipelines and offshore platforms, spraying of explosive hazardous materials, work