Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Handling Hazards Underwater Robotics System Could Help Navy Divers Tasked with Dangerous Missions

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Handling Hazards Underwater Robotics System Could Help Navy Divers Tasked with Dangerous Missions

Article excerpt

"If I think of what is the most dangerous job you can do, it probably would be a Navy diver," said Jorgen Pedersen, CEO of RE2 Robotics.

"You're going down into sometimes murky waters, where you can't see, you have limited visibility, you're feeling around and you're dealing with things like mines and waterborne [explosive devices]."

His Lawrenceville-based company announced Monday that it has won a $2.5 million contract from the U.S. Navy to continue development of an underwater robotics system that will aid divers in hazardous tasks, like disposing of explosives beneath the sea's surface.

RE2 - a spinoff of Carnegie Mellon University's National Robotics Engineering Center - is developing a "dexterous maritime manipulation system" to replace humans in critical situations where a larger robot may not be adept at the task and a smaller one might not be strong enough.

The black and yellow robot under development - with "hands" that resemble the hook on an arcade claw game - can be moved with an "imitative controller" that lets divers remotely manipulate the system in an intuitive way.

If a diver moves his or her right arm and grasps for an object, the robot will move exactly the same way. RE2 calls it "puppet master" technology.

After initial testing inside a tank of water at the company's headquarters large enough for a person or two to stand in, the team takes the robotic system to Naval Base San Diego, where more complex tests - like having the robot perform real tasks - are conducted in a pool.

"We'll be getting feedback from actual operators to see what changes we need to make," Mr. Pedersen said.

The San Diego facility is convenient, he added, because after tests are conducted in fresh water, the company can take the system into the ocean to see how it performs in salt water.

Since the company was founded in 2001, RE2 has received more than $60 million from the government, spread across over 100 contracts, according to Mr. …

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