A robot designed to inspect abandoned luggage believed to contain explosives has been designed by Fraunhofer researchers.
The system is comprised of a multi-modal sensor suite that incorporates a millimetre-wave scanner, a high-resolution digital camera and a 3D environment-monitoring system.
The components are contained in a housing and mounted on a robot platform that can be controlled remotely by bomb disposal engineers from a safe distance.
The swivelling 3D sensors are capable of making a three-dimensional survey of a suspected crime scene while the digital camera provides high-resolution images for evidence purposes in the future.
Meanwhile, the millimetre-wave sensor scans the potential source of danger and creates an image of the interior.
A built-in embedded PC on the robot collects the data and sends it to the investigators, where a complete picture of the device can be constructed.
“Up to now our techniques have not allowed us to form a 3D outline of suitcase bombs, and it has been impossible – or only partially possible – to make a spatial map of the contents,” explains Stefan A Lang, team leader on the project.
“With the sensor suite we can visualise in three dimensions what’s inside a luggage item, and so determine the composition of the bomb and how the parts are arranged in the luggage.”
Currently, specialist bomb experts are tasked with identifying and disposing of suitcase bombs which puts their lives at risk.
They are also often forced to destroy the bombs, which can make it difficult to identify the perpetrators.
The newly developed contact-free detection system is light, compact, and platform independent, which means it can be mounted on any robot.
Apart from the research work on the sensor, Lang and his team are also looking into ways of determining the optimum trajectory for surveying an object.
This depends on the shape of the luggage item or container, its position in the environment, and the position of the robot.