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Starting in January 2015, SmokeBot is a project funded by the EU within the scope of the Horizon 2020 program. It is being realized together with partners from Sweden, Austria and United Kingdom, as well as Fraunhofer Institute for High Frequency Physics and Radar Techniques. The aim of SmokeBot is to improve the environment perception of mobile robots in scenarios with low visibility. L3S is responsible for research topics like sensor data fusion (light based sensors and radar), thermography, (hazard) situation analysis and information modeling.


Harsh conditions such as rain, snow and fog and situational occurrences, e.g. fire-related smoke and dust, significantly decrease quality and usability of traditional, light based sensor modalities. Robots for emergency response and disaster management will satisfy an upcoming field with a high demand of risk reduction for first responder personnel as well as reduced mission costs. These applications require new perceptual and cognitive robotic capabilities. Limits of traditional sensors for tasks of dealing with only partial or erroneous information as well as mechanical, electronic and thermal robustness restrict the use of current robotic platforms.


Challenges & Highlights

State-of-the-art robot perception is mostly unsuited in low visibility conditions that frequently occur during aforementioned scenarios. SmokeBot addresses this shortcoming and can bring a step change for robotics. A key element of the project is the development of a novel sensor unit and the corresponding cognitive approaches for low visibility conditions. The project results will be demonstrated through the integration in an industrial prototype of a Low Visibility Explorer Robot and will be evaluated in real-world experiments in the target environment.

SmokeBot has three main objectives: hardware and software development of a novel sensor suite for low visibility conditions, a set of perception modules to enhance the cognitive abilities of mobile robots, especially for use in disaster response, and integration of the project results in a prototype for a commercial Low Visibility Explorer Robot.


Potential applications & future issues

Especially in mountainous regions within Europe, tunnel accidents have happened and still occur frequently. Thus, there is a high demand for tunnel safety and substantial measures have been taken to increase safety standards after major accidents (see accidents in Tauern tunnel, Gotthard tunnel, Kaprun railway). Conditions for first responders in tunnel systems during or after an emergency are very dangerous. They are often condemned to wait as they are uncertain of the situation within the tunnel. Dense smoke and enormous heat hinders them from getting first-hand information and preparing for the right measures. SmokeBot tackles these challenges, but also has the potential to open up new opportunities by expanding the range of possible applications for robot systems, for example to dusty environments often found in agriculture applications.

This project has been supported within H2020-ICT by the European Commission under grant agreement number 645101 (SmokeBot).



Prof. Dr.-Ing. Bernardo Wagner
M. Sc. Björn Zeise
M. Sc. Paul Fritsche
M. Sc. Patrick Hemme