The NSERC Canadian Field Robotics Network (NCFRN) was launched in acknowledgement that a much-needed first national structure was required to support and foster interactions and collaborations between academic, government and industrial researchers in the area of field robotics. The NCFRN will help the key Canadian players in robotics to work together synergistically and in an integrated manner to develop the technologies needed to support the growing demand for outdoor-capable robotics systems. The technologies developed by the NCFRN will also help address a wide range of highly relevant Canadian economic, environmental and political issues spanning border patrol, spatial exploration, navigation safety and senior care.
The NCFRN provides the national framework for 11 research groups from 8 Canadian universities as well as 11 industrial partners and 3 government agencies. Research areas are divided into four themes, each led by an internationally recognized Canadian researcher. All of the NCFRN academic researchers and most of our partners belong to more than one theme, allowing for extensive connections and collaborations across themes and sub-themes.
The NCFRN Administration is based at McGill University. The management structure of the network is comprised of a board of directors, a scientific and steering review committee, and a technology transfer committee.
The goal of the NCFRN is to develop intelligent, autonomous, mobile robotic vehicles suitable for real-world environments on Land, in Water, in the Air, and in Human communities. These robots will be expected to be capable to operate in one or many of these elements and collaborate with other robots and with human operators to achieve complex tasks that cannot be performed by individual robots or by humans alone. These four themes share a common set of goals and challenges. Addressing these challenges in one of the themes will allow the NCFRN team to leverage the existing technological strengths to advance research in the other themes as well.
Concrete examples of areas of application for the robotic technologies developed in each theme are given below.
Theme 1: Land — Deep forest, Arctic, underground mines, Mars
Theme 2: Air — Low-altitude flight under a range of harsh weather conditions (wind, rain, snow)
Theme 3: Water — Shallow and deep lakes and oceans, surf zone
Theme 4: Human — Human-centric and urban environments, with complex settings: shopping malls, homes of people with impaired cognitive/physical abilities
By providing the first national structure in field robotics, the NCFRN will foster collaborations between academic, industrial and government researchers in Canada, and act as a catalyst for technology and knowledge transfer opportunities as well as for commercialization of developed technologies. The NCFRN will also enable the training of highly qualified scientists and engineers with specific multidisciplinary expertise and practical experience in field robotics. This will in turn fuel research and development in Canada.
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