Scientists at the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) and the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (JHU/APL) are developing robots to help military robots that may have fallen over in the line of duty get back up on their feet again.

Although military robots are a great concept for preserving human life during dangerous missions, they are no good if they are knocked over or fall while on duty. And the last thing you want to do while in action is to go and save a robot when your life’s at risk.

The concept could also be used to help other robots stand backup after a fall, which could also prove very handy for rescue robots, for example.

The universities’ technology uses software to help the robot determine the situation they’re in and will use problem-solving algorithms tho help them work out the best ways to get out of that hostile situation – which could include standing back up again.

One of the researchers, ARL researcher Dr Chad Kessens explained he was motivated to look into the solution when he was told one story of a soldier who put his own life at risk to save his companion robot.

“One soldier told me that he valued his robot so much, he got out of his vehicle to rescue the robot when he couldn’t get it turned back over,” says Kessens. “That is a story I never want to hear again.”

The research uses Advanced Explosive Ordnance Disposal Robotic System (AEODRS) – a lightweight robot that can fit into solders’ backpacks. The robots have been adapted to have more joints than other, similar robots. They have also been adapted with a  Range Adversarial Planning Tool (RAPT) that explores how robots change from a stable situation to an unstable one and can work in the same way to right itself.

“For this work, we were looking for states where the robot could transition from a stable configuration to an unstable one, thus causing the robot to tip over,” says Mullins. “My techniques were able to effectively predict where those transitions might be so that we could search the space efficiently.”