Military Embedded Systems

Sensors and machine learning equip chemical agent-seeking robot

News

January 18, 2021

Emma Helfrich

Technology Editor

Military Embedded Systems

Sensors and machine learning equip chemical agent-seeking robot
Dstl photo.

UNITED KINGDOM. Dstl, the science inside U.K. defense and security, has developed a prototype robot so that humans and machines can now team up to detect and report dangerous chemicals over large areas.

The Merlin Robot, developed by industry partner HORIBA-MIRA with funding from the Ministry of Defense (MoD) and the Home Office, autonomously carried out simulated chemical reconnaissance tasks over test areas covering up to 10,000 square meters. Currently a single prototype, the Merlin robot operated continuously on tasks for several hours, allowing personnel to monitor and manage the test incident scene from a safe distance, away from potential harm.

The trial, run under Dstl’s Project Servitus, was a follow-on to previous work conducted under Project Minerva, which investigated the use of ground-based and airborne autonomous systems to tackle hazardous scene assessment in areas contaminated with chemical agents, on behalf of the MoD and the Home Office.

Initially developed as part of Project Minerva, under Servitus the Merlin robot had an off-the-shelf chemical vapor sensor mounted so that it can be accurately positioned close to the ground. The robot’s AI-based object recognition and search and detection techniques were also further developed, including drawing on other Dstl-funded work on MIRA’s Viking re-supply and recce unmanned ground vehicle (UGV), enhancing the system’s autonomous behaviors and capability.