How Robotics Teams Prepared for DARPA’s SubT Challenge: Urban Circuit by IEEE Spectrum

February 20th, 2020

In a recent article by Evan Ackerman on IEEE Spectrum, teams competing in the DARPA SubtChallenge Urban Circuit answered three questions about what lessons they took away from the Tunnel Circuit, how they have been getting ready for the next challenge, and how they expect things to be different this time around.

Below are the answers from our team by our Technical Leader Dr Nicolas Hudson.

What was the biggest challenge (or biggest surprise) for your team during the Tunnel Circuit?

Team CSIRO Data61: Our underground robot-to-robot communications. We started the project developing our own system, but time pressure forced us to use a modified off-the-shelf radio mesh solution. The system ended up being very fragile; some robots were unable to send or receive any packets to the operator station, even within line of sight. We now use Rajant Radios (ES1s and DX2s) on our robots.

How have you been preparing for the Urban Circuit?

Team CSIRO DATA61: Every Friday we do a weekly test, deploying multiple robots in a specially designed tunnel system onsite at CSIRO. Thanks to Hutchinson Builders in Brisbane, we have also had the chance to do bigger field trials in their underground construction areas. The local navigation stacks on both our UGVs and Emesent Drones have been significantly improved since the Tunnel Circuit, enabling much better autonomy.

What will you be doing differently in terms of hardware, software, and/or strategy?

Team CSIRO DATA61: Our strategy has become more autonomous and distributed. Each robot has a perception backpack (with integrated lidar, cameras, IMU etc.), which share map “frames” between all robots. Each robot computes a live global map containing all the available information from the other robots. This has allowed us to share objects, goals, and frontiers (the boundary of unexplored space) between the robots. As a result, if a robot does not get a command from the operator, it explores a new frontier from the shared map.

Good luck team!

To read answers from the other teams, read the full article here.

CSIRO’s Data61 team at our testing venue in Elma, WA.




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