Monday, June 8, 2015

2015-05-28: Autonomy Incubator Visits Alexandria PD

The Autonomy Incubator team made an thrilling excursion into the outside world to meet the people and robots that make up the Alexandria Police Department's Special Operation Team Technical Services Unit's (TSU) Tactical Computer Section (TCS). Their work is as complicated and impressive as their name would suggest: TCS uses ground robots to handle a wide range of high-pressure scenarios for the Alexandria Police Department, from searches to hostage situations.  Sergeant James Craige and Sergeant Tim Kyburz, both of TCS, demonstrated three of the department's robots, highlighting the machines' current capabilities before outlining their ideas for autonomous elements in future versions. While it's easy to think of autonomy in terms of delivering packages and collecting data, robots with the capability for independent decision-making also represent an exciting possibility for the future of public safety-- imagine a robot with the ability to not only enter a house to search for hostages, but also to recognize a doorknob and use it to open the front door without waiting for explicit, step-by-step instructions from a human.  After our crew observed the TCS robots and the support network required to keep them operational in the field, the two teams agreed to stay in contact to explore collaborative opportunities.

While much was learned and we are excited about future collaboration, this trip was doubly exciting because it marked the Autonomy Incubator's first outing with Lauren and Michael, our new Aero Scholar interns. You can see Lauren and half of Michael in the selfie above. Also pictured are Gil, Loc, Jim, Danette, and Anna.

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