Robotics had tended to develop its own specialised system for each application area (nuclear, construction, space, etc.) with little or no cross fertilisation between the different areas. This fragmented approach led to re-invention for each project even though the knowledge may be available elsewhere. This approach also prevented the robotics industry from developing. Instead, a fragmented collection of robot manufacturers needed to produce designs and associated components in an isolated manner without any real supporting infrastructure.
This project redressed this imbalance and reduced wastage of time, effort and resources, by creating a thematic network in the area of mobile robotics.
The Thematic Network brought together European engineers, scientists and industrialists so they could interact with each other in an effective manner and coordinate activities, and sharing of expertise can result. The network concentrated on climbing and walking robots (CLAWAR) and associated support technologies because this was an active area of research where much innovative work had been carried out in recent years. The network carried out several activities to introduce design unification into robotic systems as well as critically examining the state-of-the-art so that complementary research could be supported by the Community as RTD projects were identified.
The network encompassed key academic centres of excellence and industrial partners with interests in robotics either as suppliers (from component level to complete robots) or as potential users to work together during the Implementation Phase of CLAWAR. These partners, with assistance from key experts, rationalised the fragmented research requirements for current and future robotic machines and defined key features for modularity so that future research effort could be co-ordinated. In this manner, the immediate and future needs of users in a variety of applications areas (such as nuclear, construction, outdoor, off shore and leisure markets) could be satisfied.
Industrial interest was generated amongst European and International markets by this technology and CLAWAR highlighted many existing and potential applications. Industrial users saw the need for these machines and recognized the associated benefits of several aspects of the technology and identified among others the following areas to be concentrated upon:
- improved valve control;
- intelligence and self-decision-making capabilities;
- 3D path planning;
- improved and intelligent sensor, actuator and powering technologies;
- reliability and robustness aspects;
- effective solutions for navigation and collision avoidance;
- perception techniques.
These aspects were addressed.
As part of the project, David Cooke completed his PhD in 1999. He investigated tractive mechanisms for wall climbing robots. The PhD was directed by B Pritchard and supervised by DA Sanders.
- kept up-to-date on the status of the CLAWAR technology and disseminated this information widely;
- pooled information on user requirements in a variety of application areas;
- identified synergies and overlaps between users, manufacturers and researchers working in different application areas;
- defined user requirements as functionality modules and how best to achieve this modularity in future robotic designs;
- advised the EC and partners on future CLAWAR research priorities;
- and provided opportunities for the sharing of expertise and experiences via staff secondments.