Scientists field test robots in Kelowna
Robots will sail, drive, and fly themselves around Kelowna tomorrow.
The city is hosting the annual gathering of Canadian scientists who are building robots specially designed to work outdoors.
A field test showcasing a dozen of their latest creations will see robots attempt to climb cliffs, cruise underwater in Okanagan Lake, fly between various points, and engage in tasks that test their sensing, computing, and estimating skills.
“Robotics technology is advancing very, very quickly,” Richard Vaughan, a computer science professor at Simon Fraser University, said Wednesday.
“In the same way that robotics has completely changed the industrial manufacturing process over the last couple decades, the way we do things outdoors will be revolutionized by robots in the coming years,” he said.
As they become more sophisticated and adept at dealing with a variety of unpredictable environmental conditions, robots will play key roles in mining, forestry, and agriculture, Vaughan believes.
And given Canada’s diverse climates and challenging terrain, as well as its world-class researchers and scientists, the country stands poised to become a leader in the field, he says.
“We see ourselves, along with Australia and the U.S, as being at the forefront of the development of this kind of intelligent technology,” Vaughan said.
The 80 researchers in Kelowna this week are members of the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s Canadian Field Robotics Network, which includes
eight universities and industrial partners. They work together to advance Canada’s abilities in developing robots for outdoor application.
The organization was set up by the federal government in 2012, and this is the third field test of their outdoor-purposed robots. The two previous tests were held in Montreal and Toronto.
“Canada can own field robotics,” said Gregory Dudek, the organization’s director and a McGill university professor. “We have the needs, the skills, the companies and the researchers. Monitoring forests, borders, fish stocks, and activities like search and rescue; robotics can provide key solutions for each.
Kelowna was chosen for the group’s field test because of its diverse landscape and variety of settings in which the machines can be evaluated.
The field test is not designed to be a public event, but will take place around the base of Knox Mountain.
Shokoofeh Pourmehr, a PhD student from Simon Fraser University, prepares her Husky robot at field trials in Kelowna this week.
Field Robotics researchers and students from Simon Fraser University prepare for robot trials at Knox Mountain.