back to article Gloom-dwelling subterranean robots battle for million-dollar DARPA prize

Legendarily loopy US military (and now also non-military) ideas factory DARPA has launched a $1m competition for underground robots. This September, the SubT Challenge will pit eight teams against each other in a series of tests in the Louisville Mega Cavern, deep under the surface of the US state of Kentucky. Sadly, despite …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    1. ClockworkOwl
      Coat

      XYZZY !!!

      ( I'll need it ouitside again...>

    2. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      A hollow voice says 'Fool'.

  2. Gene Cash Silver badge
    WTF?

    WTF is a "homogeneous drone"?

    Is this just a hidden buzzword bingo?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: WTF is a "homogeneous drone"?

      It's the one using using it's rotors to whip up homogeneous milk on it's day job. The field of AI is packed with dreamers. Only a few can make a living at it - most are, well ...., just drones.

    2. Jellied Eel Silver badge

      Drone smoothies

      Is this just a hidden buzzword bingo?

      It's part of the render safe procedure that's bled over from the miltary part of the contest. Basically a blender drone that introduces enemy drones to it's blades, grinders, and diatomic acid.

  3. swm Silver badge

    I love this stuff

    I remember the urban challenge. The big problem was getting insurance as these (non-simulated) vehicles roamed a city (with other vehicles) to accomplish objectives. They were given a map and a list of objectives shortly before the contest started (but, of course, the map had some errors and some of the roads were blocked).

    Good practice for "AI".

    1. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: I love this stuff

      "I remember the urban challenge."

      The one at the disused military base? I covered that as a photojournalist. I think that area hasn't been mowed down yet. It would be a good place to create test courses for autonomous cars to be certified on rather than public streets.

  4. Neil Barnes Silver badge
    Alien

    Then we have one legged robot

    Am I the only one who read that as 'we have a one legged robot'?

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: Then we have one legged robot

      Nope.

      I also hail our new metal unipedal overlords...

    2. John G Imrie

      Re: Then we have one legged robot

      No, and I was wondering where they put the parrot as well.

      1. Neil Barnes Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Then we have one legged robot

        Pieces of seven! Pieces of seven!

        Oh, wait... parroty error.

  5. DJO Silver badge

    Meanwhile, in real caves.

    A robot with wheels or any number of legs wouldn't get to 100 metres in the vast majority of real caves, or if it did it would be unable to return - maybe not a problem?

    Can't say for caves in the Americas but the ones in Wales are far from level and unlike the ones on TV don't have suspiciously even floors. vertical pitches are very common and water in stream-ways or partially or fully flooded caverns is almost inevitable.

    Must say a submersible drone that can fly above and below the water surface would be an impressive feat if anybody does it.

    1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

      Re: Meanwhile, in real caves.

      I suspect a slight difference in wing size due to the different fluid densities of water and air might cause a problem: I was idly watching a hydrofoil kitesurf board the other day and comparing its wing size - perhaps a tenth of a square meter - to my paraglider, thirty square meters or so. Both lifting the same mass.

      1. DJO Silver badge

        Re: Meanwhile, in real caves.

        A winged drone is a non-starter in a cave type environment, would never be able to maintain enough speed for lift.

        It would have to be a somewhat ruggedised standard 4 rotor type thing, to go in water it "just" needs to be waterproof and have the rotors turn a lot slower and ideally have slightly positive buoyancy in fresh water.

        Apart from all that it would need to be autonomous as remote C&C under water is non-trivial so all things considered I can't see anybody managing this any time soon.

        1. DJO Silver badge

          Re: Meanwhile, in real caves.

          A winged drone is a non-starter in a cave type environment

          I may have been a bit hasty with that blanket assertion. I should have said "fixed wing".

          Bats manage very well in caves - so some form of onithopter might (given suitable materials) do the non-aquatic bit of cave exploration quite well.

          1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

            Re: Meanwhile, in real caves.

            Can't help thinking that I'd rather write the software for a submersible drone than for a bat-analogue ornithopter that can swim! That could be a job for life...

    2. Inventor of the Marmite Laser

      Re: Meanwhile, in real caves.

      Just send in The Luggage

      1. MachDiamond Silver badge

        Re: Meanwhile, in real caves.

        Whatever The Luggage can't get around, it will attack and eat so we regain the battlebots aspect we were missing in all of this.

    3. MachDiamond Silver badge

      Re: Meanwhile, in real caves.

      "wouldn't get to 100 metres in the vast majority of real caves'

      It might do better in a subway or Chernobyl. It's another case of horses for courses. Different designs will be useful for different missions.

  6. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge
    Terminator

    Calling Simon.... calling Simon...

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