Robotex: an Equipex in robotics

Robots and robotics in general have become essential components in aeronautics, in transport, in civilian and military security, and this is true in France too.

France occupies rank #3 in the world in terms of publication of scientific robotics papers, after the USA and Japan. France has no less than 10 000 research workers in this field. Thus, the Robotex team was ranked 1st ex æquo among 52 teams declared as laureates of the 1st round of the call for projects issued under the Government scheme 'Investments for the Future' in the category 'Excellence' Equipments (Equipex).

The latter are intermediate sized equipment units (semi-heavy), serving a particular programme and accessible to industrialists. ROBOTEX thus facilitates the networking of the main research teams in robotics from 15 different laboratories (as well as their infrastructures), their technical test and research rigs and their scientific acumen and expertise.

"Even if scientific progress is based primarily on equipment-software integration, using sensor technologies, actuators, programming and on-board software, robotics draws on computer sciences and engineering sciences in general, implementing mechanical engineering, electronics, computer science applications and social sciences", details Philippe Bonnifait, a lecturer research scientist working at the UTC-Heudiasyc Laboratory, designated by the INSIS-CNRS Institute as the nodal point for the national network of platforms studying mobile robotics.

The UTC Heudiasyc Laboratory has been committed for over 20 years to studies on 'smart' vehicles, and in particular on the theme of mobile robotics. Development at UTC (with the private company Induct) on robot urban all-electric vehicles is an example. Funds obtained in the framework of 'excellence' equipment also enables the laboratory to set up and equip an experimental area close to the UTC Centre of Innovation and an external flight hangar to study stability and control functions for a squadron of mini-drones circulating in a natural environment.

Possible applications here are already very numerous: observation of fields and crops, monitoring road traffic conditions or risky locations (nuclear power stations), close examination of public works (dams, bridges, towers ...), or high voltage overhead power lines, interventions in the case of disaster situations or natural catastrophes.

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