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The Proteus System
January 26, 2012   
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A consortium of top Polish research centers led by the Industrial Research Institute for Automation and Measurements in Warsaw is working to develop an integrated system for supporting anti-terrorist and crisis management operations. The system is called Proteus and work on the project began in 2008. The project is co-financed by the European Union and is scheduled to be completed in 2013.

Engineers from the Military University of Technology play an important role in the project. A team of researchers from the university’s Institute of Optoelectronics has undertaken to develop sensors for robots as part of the Proteus system. The team is made up of Lt. Col. Marek Życzkowski, Ph.D.; Lt. Col. Janusz Mikołajczyk, Ph.D.; Mariusz Kastek, Ph.D.; Miron Kaliszewski, Ph.D.; Lt. Col. Marek Piszczek, Ph.D.; Jarosław Młyńczak, Ph.D.; Lt. Col. Wiesław Piotrowski, Ph.D.; and Prof. Mieczysław Szustakowski, who is coordinating the researchers’ work. The team also includes Col. Krzysztof Kopczyński, Ph.D., director of the Institute of Optoelectronics.

The robots being developed as part of the Proteus system are designed for use in surveillance and reconnaissance missions. They can also be used to identify chemical, radiological and terrorism-related hazards, as well as to help determine conditions for rescue operations.

A total of 17 sensors have been selected, most of them developed using optoelectronic technology. Tests at exercise sites are planned for the end of 2012 and the start of 2013.

The robots and related equipment intended for use as part of the Proteus project are designed for deployment during fires, floods, accidents on construction sites, road accidents, biological and radioactive contamination emergencies, as well as in crisis situations related to terrorist attacks. The equipment will be also used by lifeguards and in flood control operations. The robots will help monitor the situation and look for missing people in frozen water as well as in flooded areas. They will enable rescue operations on ice as well as observations from land.

Thanks to the sensors mounted on them, the robots will be able to send information about the conditions at the scene of an accident and transmit data from the site about the condition of injured people and the state of infrastructure such as levees and dams. During disasters and emergencies involving buildings and infrastructure, the robots will help locate people trapped inside ruins and wreckage. The robots will be able to overcome obstacles such as rocks, slopes, sand, and puddles of water. Thanks to this, they will be used to carry and deliver small items (for example survival kits) and work for an extended period of time in high temperatures (of up to at least 40 degrees Celsius). They will also be used in road rescue operations, for example in the event of an accident involving a vehicle carrying hazardous cargo.

The most common hazard encountered by firefighters is chemicals. The Military University of Technology team has developed a chemical sensor that can be used in operations with the use of robots. The researchers have also designed a radioactive contamination detector for detecting ionizing radiation.

An important issue for those responsible for fighting terrorism are risks arising from the use of various types of explosives. In areas covered by war operations or subject to terrorist attacks, soldiers and other servicemen may come into contact with many types of explosives. These may include mines, bombs that failed to explode, and improvised explosive devices. The risks can be reduced by quickly detecting the presence of explosives.

The detector developed by the WAT team is an essential tool for robots in tasks related to the examination of suspicious-looking objects, preliminary checking of the reasons for blasts, identifying potential hazards related to suspicious individuals and vehicles as well as inspections and related activities.

As part of the project, in order to improve rescue operations, the researchers have proposed a variety of optoelectronic sensors to make it possible to identify specific rescue operations in detail. These include a camera, a thickness gauge, a directional microphone, a biosensor, an X-ray panel, and a sensor for detecting cell phones.

Using components of the Proteus system during rescue operations will increase the safety of the individuals directly involved. In an emergency, the robot will replace human beings in detecting the nature of the threat and will perform particularly dangerous activities such as picking up an explosive charge that cannot be disarmed on site. The robots will also monitor contaminated land and will be used in wetlands, for example.

Proteus is designed for use by Polish emergency services: firefighters, the police, border guards, and crisis management centers. The project will end with the construction of a demonstration system that will be unveiled in August 2013.

The operations of emergency services will be supported by three multiple-role robots, an unmanned airplane and a mobile command center, all equipped with photoelectric sensors.

Parts of the Proteus system are already used by emergency services and the military, but combining them into a single operating unit is an innovative idea both in Poland and abroad.

The core of the Proteus system will be a Mobile Command Center designed by scientists and engineers from the Poznań University of Technology. The MCC will be a truck fitted with sophisticated communication devices and other equipment. It is there that decisions will be made about specific operations, thanks to the collection and interpretation of data. In addition to the processing and integration of data from the system’s components (including the robots and the unmanned aircraft), the MCC will be in constant touch with police and fire service command posts and crisis management centers.

Three types of mobile robots, each with different functions and a different purpose, will be deployed directly to the scene. The Small Mobile Robot will be used in operations in difficult and inaccessible terrain. It will be able to inspect sites using video and infrared cameras.

The Mobile Intervention Robot will be the equivalent of special forces. It will be bigger and heavier, and will be equipped with a set of sensors to assess threat levels.

The Mobile Enhanced Functionality Robot, the biggest of the three robots, will weigh about 300 kilograms and will be able to move weights of up to 40 kg, using an arm with a range of 2 meters. Its design will allow the installation of additional devices, such as sensors and pyrotechnic launchers.

The Mobile Robot Operator Center, installed on a truck chassis, will transport all the robots to the site. The MROC will be provided with equipment for quick loading and unloading of the robots, portable robot operator stands, and a system for communication with the command center.

Tadeusz Belerski
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