Section: Application Domains


Advanced robotics offers a wide spectrum of application possibilities entailing the use of mechanical systems endowed, to some extent, with capacities of autonomy and capable of operating in automatic mode : intervention in hostile environments, long range exploration, automatic driving, observation and surveillance by aerial robots,... without forgetting emerging and rapidly expanding applications in the domains of robotic domestic appliances, toys, and medicine (surgery, assistance to handicapped persons, artificial limbs,...). A characteristics of these emerging applications is that the robots assist, rather than compete with, human beings. Complementarity is the central concept. The robot helps the operator in taking decisions or extending his physical capacities. The recent explosion of applications and new scientific horizons is a tangible sign that Robotics, at the crossway of many disciplines, will play a ubiquitous role in the future of Science and Technology.

We are currently involved in a certain number of applications, a list of which follows. Our participation in these applications is limited to the transfer of methods and algorithms. Implementation and validation are left to our partners.

  • Ground robotics : Since 1995, Inria has been promoting research in the field of the intelligent transport systems. Our activity concern the domain of future transportation systems, with a participation in the national Predit Project MobiVIP . In this project, we address autonomous and semi-autonomous navigation (assistance to driving) of city cars by using information data provided by visual or telemetric sensors. This is closely related to the problems of localization in an urban environment, path planning and following, subjected to stringent safety constraints (detection of pedestrians and obstacles) within large and evolutive structured environments. The ANR TOSA project CityVIP beginning in 2008 follows the Predit project MobiVIP , which ended in 2006.

    Finally, since 2004 we have participated in two projects conducted by the DGA (French Defense) in the field of military robotics. PEA MiniRoc is a typical SLAM problem based on sensory data fusion, complemented with control/navigation issues. It addresses on-line indoor environment exploration, modeling and localization issues with a mobile robot platform equipped with multiple sensors (laser range-finder, omnidirectional vision, inertial gyrometer, odometry). As a follow-up to the project PEA MiniRoc , the project Rapid CANARI aims at extending robustness of indoor SLAM by merging visual and range sensors. On the other hand, PEA Tarot addresses autonomy issues for military outdoor robots. Our contribution focuses on the transfer and adaptation of our results in real time visual-tracking for platooning applications to operational conditions.

  • Aerial robotics has grown in importance for us these last few years. Collaborations with the Robotics and Vision Group at CenPRA in Campinas (Brazil) and the Mechanical Engineering Group at IST in Lisboa (Portugal) are pursued towards the development of an unmanned airship for civilian observation and survey missions. Potential end-user applications for such vehicles are either civilian (environmental monitoring, surveillance of rural or urban areas, rescue deployment after natural disasters...) or military (observation or tactical support...). The experimental setup AURORA (Autonomous Unmanned Remote Monitoring Robotic Airship) consists of a 9 meters long airship instrumented with a large set of sensors (GPS, Inertial Navigation System, vision,...) located in Campinas. Vision-based navigation algorithms are also studied in the FP6 STReP European Project Pegase , led by Dassault, which is devoted to the development of embarked systems for autonomous take-off and landing when dedicated airport equipments are not available.

    Aerial vehicles with vertical take-off and manœuvering capabilities (VTOLs, blimps) also involve difficult control problems. These vehicles are underactuated and locally controllable. Some of them are critical systems in the sense of the non-controllability of their linearized equations of motion, even under the action of gravity (like blimps in the horizontal plane), whereas others are not due to this action (like VTOLs). Our objective is to propose control strategies well suited to these systems for different stabilization objectives (like e.g. teleoperation or fully autonomous modes) [5] . For example, a question of interest to us is to determine whether the application of control laws derived with the transverse function approach is pertinent and useful for these systems. The main difficulties associated with this research are related to practical constraints. In particular, strong external perturbations, like wind gusts, constitute a major issue for the control of these systems. Another issue is the difficulty to estimate precisely the situation of the system, due to limitations on the information that can be obtained from the sensors (e.g. in term of precision of the measures, or of frequency of the data acquisition). We have addressed these issues in two projects. The first one is the ANR project SCUAV (Sensory Control of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) involving several academic research teams and the french company BERTIN Technologies . The second one is the Eco-Industrie project RAPACE which involves several industrial and academic partners and is managed by the french company GEOCEAN .