The rescue robot team Hector from TU Darmstadt has won the Best-in-Class Awards in two categories at the 2021 RoboCup World Championship in the Rescue Robot League: “Dexterity” and “Exploration and Mapping”.

RoboCup is the oldest and largest global competition for intelligent robots in a variety of application scenarios. The Rescue Robot League is engaged in research and development in the field of rescue robotics. Besides teams from China, Japan, South Korea and USA, Team Hector was the only European representative this year.

Due to the Covid 19 pandemic, the RoboCup World Championship was held virtually and in different locations around the world. New suitable formats were developed for this purpose. In the rescue robot league, these consisted of four disciplines with new, compact and versatile test setups that all teams set up under online supervision in their own test labs for the robots to complete. In addition, teams were allowed to incorporate their local field conditions for tasks such as exploration and inspection.

The tasks were based on the skills required of rescue robots in the field: Manipulation of various objects (Dexterity), Exploration of an unknown area and generation of a 3D map (Exploration & Mapping), Investigation of targets with the robot camera (Inspection) and Autonomous overcoming of an obstacle course (Autonomous Mobility).

Starting in mid-May, the teams had one month to complete the preliminary round. During this time, they had to build the test setups, complete the multitude of tests and submit video recordings. The videos were then provided to all teams and mutually reviewed for correct scoring.

Team Hector successfully completed the preliminary round with their videos of their rescue robot performance. The finals were then streamed live via YouTube and had to be completed in a limited time. Here, Team Hector was able to score once again: In the “Dexterity” category, the team from Darmstadt clearly beat the competition from Japan. In “Exploration and Mapping”, Team Hector and Team Nubot (China) achieved the maximum number of points and thus shared first place. With two first places, the strong result of Team Hector fits into the series of successful participations of the last years.

Team Hector consists of scientific staff and students of the TU Darmstadt. emergenCITY scientists are also represented in Team Hector, including Stefan Fabian, Marius Schnaubelt, as well as Prof. Oskar von Stryk from the Department of Simulation, System Optimization and Robotics at the Department of Computer Science, who leads Team Hector.

Team Hector had two different robots in the competition. The intelligent and compact in-house development “Asterix” is equipped with various sensors as well as autonomy and assistance functions. Data from the lidar, inertial measurement system and 360° camera are fused to generate an accurate three-dimensional model of the environment in real time. The “Telemax” robot, which is available through the BMBF-funded joint research project to establish the German Rescue Robotics Center (DRZ), was also used. It features a particularly precise and powerful manipulator arm.

For the competition, Team Hector cooperated with the German Center for Rescue Robotics e.V. in Dortmund to carry out the exploration tasks in the Living Lab there, and with the Unisport Zentrum der TU Darmstadt, which provided equipment for some of the tasks.