5 tech challenges holding back robotics

5 tech challenges holding back robotics

Despite the many headaches unmanned systems have given government regulators, they can be far more efficient than humans for infrastructure surveillance, border security and bomb defusing.  Still, several technology challenges must be overcome before governments widely adopt  unmanned systems --  be they drones, humanoid robots or exoskeletons.  Five of those technology hurdles are discussed in a new IDC TechScape report: Worldwide Government Robotics Technologies, 2015.

Traffic management. IDC notes that NASA has taken the lead on developing a UAV traffic management system that relies on geofencing technology to keep drones away from sensitive locations such as the White House or airports.  However, no more capacity can be added to the current radar-based air traffic control system to monitor low-altitude flights. Nor is it practical to equip individual UAVs with tracking chips, IDC said.  As a result, NASA is trying to build a system using satellites and cellular 4G and 5G networks to track UAVs, but in such a system drones must be Internet-enabled to download information regarding weather, traffic and restricted zones. Similar challenges exist for integrating driverless cars onto roads with other devices and humans.

Security. Videos from military UAVs already have been hacked by non-state groups, and a car was sent into a ditch when it was compromised by security researchers.  IDC stressed that bolstering security of robots and communications protocols will be paramount.    

Artificial intelligence. In order to improve perception, reasoning, control and communication of autonomous devices, artificial intelligence must be developed that helps them sift out the relevant signals from the vast amount of low-quality information they collect.  Advances in task-level autonomy are also required to move robotic technology beyond following simple, step-by-step commands.

Dexterity. Artificial intelligence and mechanical engineering have produced robots capable of basic locomotion activity.  However, before robots can work in environments engineered for humans, they must be engineered to perform basic human tasks, such as traverse disaster zones in search and rescue missions as well as manipulate door handles and screwdrivers.         

Power. Many robotic devices run on batteries or must be tethered to power supplies. Battery-life challenges will limit prolonged operations of UAVs, humanoid robots and exoskeletons. 

About the Author

Mark Pomerleau is a former editorial fellow with GCN and Defense Systems.

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