RACE has acquired two of Boston Dynamics’ SPOT robots. We talk with Oliver Huke, the RACE Robotics Test Facilities Manager, about the new arrivals.
When did the SPOTs arrive?
They arrived in June, although with the Covid restrictions it has taken longer than normal to unbox them.
Did they require a lot of configuration?
We carried out the inspections and safety checks that we would do with any electrical robotic system. There were also risk assessments relating to Covid, that are currently needed for all work on the Culham site.
In terms of the SPOT and control software, it was ready straight out of the box.
What testing was carried out on SPOT?
We used our NIST ASTM test lanes. NIST (the National Institute of Standards and Technology) has developed a suite of standard tests for UGVs and UAVs (Unmanned Ground Vehicles and Unmanned Aerial Vehicles). We have built test lanes to their specification to evaluate the abilities of ground and aerial robots.
We started by putting SPOT on the pitch roll lane, moving to the gravel test and the step field. SPOT dealt with them all, it is really capable. We began with high expectations and it didn’t disappoint.
What is the purpose of the different tests?
They are all looking at the robot’s ability to navigate different scenarios. The gravel, for instance, is very slippery but it is also confusing for robots. The robot sees solid ground but when they put their foot onto it, the foot sinks, which isn’t something they are used to.
The step field is designed to represent a pile of rubble and is an incredibly challenging test for robots, yet SPOT breezed through it, even though the operators had only started using the robot a few hours earlier.
What is next for SPOT?
SPOT will be one of the many robotic offerings available as part of the NNUF project, the purpose of which is hireable high-end equipment for people working in the decommissioning industry.