Safety, Security and Rescue Research Center Proposal #1127947 Proposal #1127938

This proposal seeks funding for the Safety, Security and Rescue Research Center sites at the University of Denver and the University of Minnesota. Funding Requests for Fundamental Research are authorized by an NSF approved solicitation, NSF 10-601. The solicitation invites I/UCRCs to submit proposals for support of industry-defined fundamental research.

Use of robots teams in extreme environments for wilderness search and rescue, urban search and rescue and surveillance are anticipated to require operation on land, water and under water. The proposed effort will explore means to maintain coordination of such multiple robot teams through environmental disturbances, communication lapses, and hardware and software failures. Moreover the work to establish resilient robot teams will enable the exploration of emergent behavior of the team that has the potential to arise due to these various faults. The effort will establish a real-time test bed based on the Aquapod robot and include development of test methodologies for single and multiple robots in various aqueous environments.

The outcomes of the proposed work have the potential for significant impact in the areas of public safety and search and rescue across civilian and military application spaces. The work is supported by the Industry Advisory Board as well as individual industry members of the center and has the potential to extend the center?s portfolio through expansion into the areas of robot teams, their behavior and fault tolerant control. The impact of the work has the potential to extend beyond the center by virtue of the testing methodology to be developed for robot teams. The center will involve graduate students and undergraduates in the work and incorporate the results in existing coursework in robotics and software systems engineering.

Project Report

The goals of this FRP are to improve the state-of-the-art in the methods used to evaluate the proper function of safety-critical systems such as robots and autonomous vehicles. These systems often operate in conjunction with human operators, and in the field with other people and so it is important that they are evaluated rigorously to ensure that they function as intended when all systems are working properly, and also that they react predictably when parts of the system (hardware / software) fail. This project has two main thrusts: (1) a software testing methodology, and (2) a hardware / software interface that can support this kind of testing. The software testing methodology is based on models of both the desired functional behavior, and also the failures that can occur. These are combined into a single, unified model that can be used to ensure that test cases are selected to cover both correct function as well as function during failures. The testing harness, known as RealBed (for real-time testbed), allows the system engineer to send signals to the control system (the software running the robot / vehicle) and observe and analyze the reactions to those signals. By allowing systematic, repeatable testing of these systems in a controlled environment, the underlying software can be evaluated in many more scenarios than can can be reliably simulated in the field. The testing methodology we originally created to test robots has shown to be applicable to many more domains than just robotics and autonomous vehicles (e.g., medical devices, space vehicles, etc) and to integrate nicely with existing model-based testing approaches. Two variants of the testing harness have been developed, one that is designed for on-line monitoring and recording of the system behavior, and the other that supports the full testing methodology described above. Both the testing methodology and the testing harness have been found to be generally applicable to systems outside the original domain. As a result of this project, a number of articles related to testing of real-time and safety critical systems has been published, and students at both the graduate and undergraduate level have been given exposure to research, development and analysis of these systems. Additionally, two inventions have been produced and invention disclosures are being prepared to obtain patent protection for the devices.

National Science Foundation (NSF)
Division of Industrial Innovation and Partnerships (IIP)
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Lawrence A. Hornak
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University of Denver
United States
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