Published: 10 Mar 2017
The project has been going on for the last eight months It will equip India’s armed forces with a host of robots that can work as a team in collaboration, much like our soldiers do Robots occupying forward areas with weapons may still be a far-fetched thought, but India doesn’t want to be lagging behind in providing its armed forces up-to-date artificial intelligence (AI) and robots. Having already made a host of robots with varying uses, the Centre for Artificial Intelligence (CAIR) is now in the process of developing Multi Agent Robotics Framework (MARF)—which could be used in scenarios like the Pathankot Attack—capable of providing myriad of military applications. CAIR, a DRDO lab leading India’s research in artificial intelligence, has been working on this project for more than eight months now and when completed, it will equip India’s armed forces with a host of robots that can work as a team in collaboration, much like our soldiers do. “We will have a multi-layered architecture which will enable collaboration amongst a team of robots. The heterogeneous composition and collaboration capability can effectively contribute in applications such as surveillance, exploration and mapping, search, and rescue, among others. Once developed, MARF could be used to team up existing robots—’Wheeled Robot with Passive Suspension; Snake Robot; Legged Robot; Wall-Climbing Robot and Robot Sentry among others—or see a complete new set of robots built specifically. The different robots the India Army has already built, for instance, can make for a good team if they are able to collaborate. “The ‘Robot Sentry’ for example, is a mobile robot targeted at patrolling and surveillance applications in urban campuses, while the ‘Snake Robot’, whose 14 active joints allow lateral undulation, side winding, and rolling gaits to help it navigate difficult passages together can make for a great reconnaissance and surveillance team both in defensive and offensive plans,” a source said, adding that the ‘Wall-climbing’ robot can also partner in this team. But CAIR, another source said has also begun work on building dependable intelligent mobile robots. “The aim is to equip our armed forces with systems that are self-reliant, adaptable and fault-tolerant,” the source said, adding that this enhances the robots’ ability to complete complex tasks they have to handle autonomously. These robots are being built keeping in mind the current military scenario which demands operations in different conditions—environmental and terrain. Besides, the robots will also be able to work in indoor conditions, enabling deployment at various key establishments. “Intelligence and mobility are critical enablers for unmanned systems targeted for military operations. And, structures vary throughout the Indian landscape. Extensive research in locomotion technologies has been underway to cater to specific needs of these terrain types—mountainous, desert, rural, urban, outdoor and indoor, each present a unique locomotion challenge to a robotic platform,” the source added. Special Algorithms :: Further, robots navigating on their own and performing tasks require a multitude of algorithms running continuously and concurrently to make decisions towards and it is more challenging when we need them to work as one team—talking among themselves, relaying things back to the control centres and take orders—much like soldiers do. “While we’ve built a series of algorithms in the past, things are advancing in artificial intelligence. And this particular system will require a set of special algorithms which are also being developed,” the source said. CAIR has a team working on Robot Perceptions, a key aspect of any such machine. From Simultaneous Planning, Localisation and Mapping (SPLAM) to simple task like navigation, algorithms that don’t fail the robots are crucial.