The first sub-goal of the jointly developed implementation plan was to conduct an initial basic requirements analysis which would be used as a foundation on which to draft an initial concept. Since robot systems are a rapidly evolving technology and will therefore remain highly dynamic in the future, the concept was consciously designed to be open and flexible. It is based on the core idea of a function-driven, technical-spatial encapsulation of individual systems into three main components:
- Mobility platform
- Module carrier
- Specific mission payloads designed as interchangeable modules
The mobility platform houses the drive systems for locomotion and also provides the energy source for the overall system. The module carrier, which is specifically adapted to the respective platform, acts as a compatibility layer for integrating all the sensors and actuators into the platform at the mechatronic level. In terms of software, the carrier also integrates all of the relevant components into the robotics middleware Robot Operating System (ROS) commonly used in the research environment, which is also used in the DRZ as a standard component of the modularization concept. Furthermore, the carrier offers conceptually defined, standardized mechanical and electrical interfaces for the interchangeable modules.
After successful coordination of the initial concept with all of the association's partners, the modularization concept was developed in detail in three areas during the second development phase of the DRZ:
- Mechatronic structure and interface specification
- Software interfaces
- Logical communication architecture
Modules for a range of applications were also designed and their connection further adapted to the D3 and D4 robot classes intended as carrier platforms for the DRZ and available as demonstrators. The robot systems were consciously selected to be very different in order to exemplify and achieve the greatest possible cross-platform module compatibility across different systems in the spirit of the DRZ. The use of a Fraunhofer FKIE-developed multimaster system ensures the accessibility and synchronization of communication between the modules. In the third phase, the concept developed was successfully transferred in stages to the D3 and D4 demonstrators, and the interchangeability of the standardized modules and their operational capability were verified in integration tests on both platforms. The fourth and final phase now consists of an ongoing iteration and revision process, fine-tuning, and responding to emerging requirements in the growing DRZ infrastructure.