CARLSBAD — According to the United Nations, there are more than 110 million active landmines scattered across 70 countries.
One Carlsbad company has created software that positions robots to help track down landmines and improvised explosive devices without using GPS, which is unreliable and goes down easily.
Also, GPS is not available in all areas such as canyons and the signal is easily jammed by outsiders, which is problematic during combat.
5 D Robotics has developed software for intuitive robotic control and positioning that doesn’t rely on the use of satellites and is much more precise than GPS.
The software is installed onto a drone or an unmanned ground uses 5D’s ultra-wideband positioning modules, which are like posts, to navigate its surroundings.
“It’s really a way to make the world a lot more understandable to robots,” 5 D Robotics founder David Bruemmer said.
The software can be used to map areas, help detect IEDs and follow another person or vehicle.
“In order to create really reliable behaviors so that robots can do useful things, we need to solve the positioning problem definitively. It can’t just work 99 times out of 100, it has to work all the time,” Bruemmer said.
The 5 D technology doesn’t get confused by shadows, dust or overgrowth. It is able to sense obstacles and stop if something is in the way.
With the ultra-wide band tagging, the robots map areas to the centimeter, which is more precise than GPS mapping which is accurate to several feet, said Bruemmer.
It is extremely helpful for marking the coordinates of landmines, which is why the government contracted them for their software to be used overseas.
5 D also provides squad support.
The robot can carry gear and easily follow a person or car without needing control from a human.
The ultra-wideband positioning tags provide a target, which is easy for the robot to see and follow, so a human doesn’t need to actively steer the robot, Bruemmer said.
While it’s been tested and used in the military, Bruemmer hopes to take the software and use it commercially.
He said it would be helpful to utility companies who could use it to monitor pipelines and provide 3D maps of power lines.
“The tracking capabilities would allow a single user to “virtually tether” an aerial drone to follow their car,” Bruemmer said.
“They can then drive their car instead of piloting the UAS drone. Meanwhile the drone is able to build up detailed 3D maps and survey the area from a bird’s eye perspective.”
They’re currently working to test its application in agriculture in Encinitas.
Bruemmer started testing the technology at the Idaho National Laboratory but moved to Carlsbad five years ago because of all the innovative companies located in the city, and because of the quality of life.
They work alongside Carlsbad-based AerialMOB, which has an exemption from the Federal Aviation Administration to commercially fly drones.
The Carlsbad Chamber of Commerce gave 5 D Robotics an award in Information and Communication Technology because Chamber President Ted Owen said they’re unique in their environment and their expected growth is significant.
He said he saw firsthand the utility of the software.
“Having spent 20 years in the marines, I can tell you it’d be really nice to have these vehicles where you don’t have to drive them,” Owen said.
He’s got big hopes for the company.
“The self-driven/ self directed vehicle of the future, could in fact be a 5 D Robotics product,” Owen said.