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FZI Research Center for Information Technology


The odds for autonomy have never been better


Since July 1, 2017, a team headed by Arne Rönnau at the FZI Research Center Information Technology has been researching a system with which robots can make independent decisions in space missions. The outcomes of the intelliRISK project will enable robots to act more autonomously and flexibly on planetary exploration missions. The aim of the project is to train robots in such a way that they can assess risks independently and have the ability to consciously weigh up situations and make decisions. The project uses LAURON V, a walking robot developed at the FZI, which is capable of moving safely even on rough terrain. LAURON V will serve as a test and evaluation system for developments and is also to be expanded for planetary exploration missions.

Up to now, in planetary exploration missions, the respective mission teams decide on the actions of the robots used. As a basis for their decisions, the teams use data that is only available with greater delay or to a reduced extent. "In the current procedure, not all the information available to the robot is transferred to the mission teams and cannot therefore be taken into account in the decision-making process," says Arne Rönnau. The intelliRISK project is intended to close this gap in the future. The system can assess risks and influence situations independently based on the knowledge gained. Especially in cases where the success of the mission is more important than the potential damage to the hardware, the intelligence of the system is crucial. The intelliRISK system enables the robot to recognize, assess and consciously take risks in such situations - for example when it is confronted with a steep slope or a wide trench. At the beginning of the mission, the robot can still act cautiously, but later, towards the end of its lifetime, make decisions that are more courageous.

The project is of particular importance for Germany as a science location in the field of planetary research: "With the intelliRISK project, we are making an important contribution to increasing autonomy in the field of robotics," says Arne Rönnau. In addition to space travel, the system could also be used in other areas: "In future, risk awareness can also be used in industrial 4.0 applications to cooperate more safely with people and prevent accidents," says the robotics expert. But even in disaster control and recovery, the robot could put human welfare above its own in order to make rescue possible even in difficult situations.

The intelliRISK project is funded by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy and supervised by the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR).

Field Of Research

Modeling Dangers

Perceiving and understanding dangers is key in intelliRISK. The challenge lies not only in the detection of external dangers but also the wear and tear of the robot itself. Understanding how different dangers play together represents the first step towards a risk-intelligent robot.

Evaluating Risks

A continuous flow of sensory information allows the robot to understand its surroundings. But understanding the gravity of any given situation, whether it be a collapsing ground or a broken joint, requires elaborate assessment. Knowing which risks count higher is crucial for a successful mission.

Acting autonomously

Complex decisionmaking is the final goal of intelliRISK. A robot should be capable of picking its own approaches to the mission. This means that it will take risks to reach its mission objective in time but also be able to inform any control team about its intentions.

Meet the heads of intelliRISK

  • Team Member

    Arne Rönnau

    Behaviour Control and Management
    Department lead and control expert for LAURON IV and LAURON V since 2008.

    Team Member

    Timothee Büttner

    Hardware Design and Production
    Electronics engineer with a background mix of biodesign and product management.

    Team Member

    Tristan Schnell

    Software Design and Development
    Computer scientist focussing on cognitive systems and machine learning.

  • Team Member

    Georg Heppner

    Robot Cooperation and Skills
    Multi-robot cooperation specialist, responsible for skill modeling and robot decisionmaking.

    Team Member

    Lennart Puck

    Perception and Control
    Software engineer focused on robot control and environmental perception.

    Team Member

    Carsten Plasberg

    Electric Design and Control
    Seasoned mechatronics engineer and behaviour designer for LAURON V.

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FZI Forschungszentrum Informatik
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+49 721 9654-0