The goal of achieving a 2,000 percent increase in the efficiency of power transmission
We were slightly disappointed but not at all surprised to learn that DARPA‘s Robot Challenge platform will likely spend most of its time operating while tethered to a utility vehicle for power.
Untethered, the best that performance that we could reasonably expect from an onboard power source might be ten or twenty minutes, which is the perfect amount of time to get about halfway through an important task before running out of juice. DARPA would prefer a robot that can operate for something like 200 minutes instead (!), so it’s soliciting proposals for the development of some super efficient new actuation systems that can actually hit that number.
In its press release announcing this new program, DARPA is unusually eloquent, so it’s worth reading a little bit of what it has to say:
“A robot that drives into an industrial disaster area and shuts off a valve leaking toxic steam might save lives. A robot that applies supervised autonomy to dexterously disarm a roadside bomb would keep humans out of harm’s way. A robot that carries hundreds of pounds of equipment over rocky or wooded terrain would increase the range warfighters can travel and the speed at which they move. But a robot that runs out of power after ten to twenty minutes of operation is limited in its utility.
In fact, use of robots in defense missions is currently constrained in part by power supply issues. DARPA has created the M3 Actuation program, with the goal of achieving a 2,000 percent increase in the efficiency of power transmission and application in robots, to improve performance potential.”
So that all sure sounds great, doesn’t it? A 2,000 percent increase in efficiency! Awesome! Let’s do it! And DARPA even has a few suggestions about how it might be done:
via IEEE Spectrum – Evan Ackerman