Team FKIE sends robot “Magni“ into a real world nuclear training facility
It's a record: for the first time, a total of 14 teams will compete in the European Robotics Hackathon (EnRicH) from 12 to 16 June 2023 - more than ever before. On the site of the nuclear power plant Zwentendorf near Vienna, which never went into operation, participants from Austria and Germany, but also from Poland, Finland and even Canada, will test the current state of their robotic systems. They all face the challenging scenarios developed by the Fraunhofer Institute for Communication, Information Processing and Ergonomics FKIE and the Austrian Armaments and Defence Technology Agency (ARWT).
"Compared to the last EnRicH 2021, the tasks for the teams will be adapted and altogether more difficult," says Dr Frank E. Schneider, deputy head of the "Cognitive Mobile Systems" department at Fraunhofer FKIE. Dark rooms, tight corners, steep stairs and metre-thick concrete and steel walls are part of the difficult environment for the teams and their systems since the first EnRicH in 2017. The teams will only find out on site during the event what additional challenges the organisational team has come up with for 2023. FKIE staff member Dennis Wildermuth reveals only this much: "For the first time, there will be no complete radio coverage, and there will be a new type of radiation sources."
Practising with these real radioactive samples, provided by the Austrian Armed Forces, is part of the EnRicH concept, which puts realism first. Schneider is convinced that the nuclear reactor, which was completed in 1978 but never put into operation after a referendum, offers the ideal conditions for this. The unusual venue also makes it possible to set tasks with a highly topical relevance: "The risk of an accident in a nuclear power plant can never be completely ruled out," says the FKIE scientist. Many of the operations that would then be required could only be carried out by robots due to the high radiation load. Schneider emphasises: "EnRicH is not a competition, but a performance comparison that shows the capabilities and deficits of robotics in an incident scenario. And it is also a unique chance for the participating teams to test and improve their systems in an exceptional setting."
An external jury judges all the performances
The teams will compete in the three disciplines "Mapping", "Manipulation" and "Search & Rescue". In addition, after the premiere in 2021, there will again be a special scenario for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones. All the performances will be judged by an external jury, which includes Dr Michael Gustmann, Kenneth Pink and Professor Daniel Watzenig, all proven experts in robotics or nuclear technology.
However, FKIE is not only co-organiser of EnRicH 2023 but also sends an own team into the event. Dr Matthias Nieuwenhuisen and Boris Illing will be putting the dual-arm robot "Magni" into practical operation for the first time at EnRicH. The robot, which is based on the "tEODor" platform from the company Telerob, has two arms, each weighing about 50 kilograms, as well as force-torque and tactile sensors for careful grasping. It is being developed as part of the multi-year project "Mobile Manipulation for CasEvac" at Fraunhofer FKIE.
"Our focus at EnRicH will be the search and rescue task, in line with the project reference," explains Illing. "However, we will also work on 3D and radiation mapping as well as the manipulation task with radioactive sources." EnRicH is not new territory for either scientist: Illing already competed for FKIE in Austria in 2017 and 2019, and his colleague Nieuwenhuisen in 2021. "This means we've been to every iteration of the event, and we try to focus on a novelty each time." Both will know how well "Magni" does at the hackathon by 16 June at the latest.
The 4th European Robotics Hackathon
Zwentendorf Nuclear Power Plant NPP
12. – 16. Juni 2023
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