How Robots Can Help Improve GIS Data

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The field of robotics has accelerated in growth over the last decade as nanotechnology has now enabled a wider variety of machines.  Robotic platforms are actively used to collect spatial data, including GPS data, to help map floor plans and wider areas.[1] Robots are also useful in areas difficult to map, particularly if GPS signals are weak. In these cases, robots have georeferenced base maps that they then use to map areas where GPS signals are not usable.[2] The results of this has helped robots also become more useful in navigation and more reliable near buildings and other objects that may disrupt their signal, something that earlier generations of robots often found difficult.

Other applications, however, take advantage of emerging technologies that incorporate more intelligent systems within robots in addition to mapping benefits. In cases, robots themselves can use GIS to make decisions and navigate around hazardous areas such as coal mines or even landmines.[3] Onboard cameras provide real-time data that inform on the terrain and the robot’s artificial intelligence informs on how to best move around a given obstacle, where data on the type of obstacle is used to inform on how to best traverse around it. This is using technology developed for the Mars rover and other similar vehicles that has now allowed scientists and others to search for areas of interest, such as location of water or mineral, on Earth or potentially other planets.[4] This has added the development of similar technologies used for unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), where 3D mapping and artificial intelligence from robotics is being used to help UAVs fly difficult terrain such as narrow valleys that were once seen as difficult regions for robotic navigation.[5]

A local map of the environment along with traces from the satellites to the robot. Green rays indicate free signal paths, orange rays indicate obstructed signal paths. Source: Maier and Kleiner, 2010.

A local map of the environment along with traces from the satellites to the robot. Green rays indicate free signal paths, orange rays indicate obstructed signal paths. Source: Maier and Kleiner, 2010.

References

[1] As an example, see this Esri news item from 2012: http://www.esri.com/news/arcnews/summer12articles/philadelphia-uses-robotics-and-gis-to-map-below-market-street.html.

[2] For more on mapping using robots in poor GPS signal areas, see:  Maier, Daniel, and Alexander Kleiner. 2010. “Improved GPS Sensor Model for Mobile Robots in Urban Terrain.” In , 4385–90. IEEE. doi:10.1109/ROBOT.2010.5509895.


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[3] For more on how robots have maneuvered using GIS technologies, see: Baudoin, Y., and Maki H. Habib, eds. 2011. Using Robots in Hazardous Environments: Landmine Detection, de-Mining and Other Applications. Woodhead Publishing in Mechanical Engineering. Oxford: Woodhead Publishing.

[4] For more on robotic technology integrated with GIS navigation and decision-making, see:  Fink, Wolfgang, James M. Dohm, Mark A. Tarbell, Trent M. Hare, and Victor R. Baker. 2005. “Next-Generation Robotic Planetary Reconnaissance Missions: A Paradigm Shift.” Planetary and Space Science 53 (14-15): 1419–26. doi:10.1016/j.pss.2005.07.013.

[5] For an example paper on UAVs applying robotics and GIS approaches, see:  Mangiameli, Michele, Giovanni Muscato, Giuseppe Mussumeci, and Cristina Milazzo. 2013. “A GIS Application for UAV Flight Planning.” IFAC Proceedings Volumes 46 (30): 147–51. doi:10.3182/20131120-3-FR-4045.00025.

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