ROBDEKON: Central Contact Point for the Development of Robots for Decontamination Tasks Launched

When chemically contaminated areas or old landfills are being refurbished or, toxic waste is sorted or nuclear facilities are being shut down, people work in an environment harmful to health: They work with contaminants, there is a risk of fire or explosion or the nuclear radiation is increased. This necessitates complex and often onerous safeguard measures. Robots and autonomous machines, carrying out tasks without an operator, can help. There is now a central contact point for the research and testing of the necessary technologies: On June 25, the competence centre "ROBDEKON – Robot Systems for the Decontamination in misanthropic Environments", funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), was launched.

Image source: Fraunhofer IOSB, Kopfsalat Medien

A small excavator digs a hole on a preset place. There is no person in the driver's cabin, a computer in an aluminium box on the roof controls it. A futuristic vehicle, its four wheels fixed on constructions that are flexible and reminding of spider legs, shows its different movement modes, which can cope with almost every terrain. A humanoid robot autonomously grips a plant component from a crowd of objects, looks at it from different angles, cleans it in a water bath and puts it into a container. These and many other exhibits showed at the ROBDEKON opening ceremony on the premises of the Fraunhofer Institute of Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB, which potentials robots have concerning decontamination tasks.

"ROBDEKON unites the significant experts in decontamination robotics and provides the base for a sustainable cooperation for the transfer of innovations into the practice," said Dr. Andrea Detmer, head of division of "Civil Security Research" at the BMBF, during the ceremony, by which a new laboratory hall for ROBDEKON was also inaugurated. "The competence centre will become the crystallisation seed for developments, which will generate by means of artificial intelligence a very specific added value for the people, who are exposed to potentially health hazards resulting from the refurbishment of landfills and the remediation of contaminated sites every day. Onerous workloads of them shall be lightened and dangers to life and limb shall thus be minimised."

Günther Leßnerkraus, department manager for "Industrie, Innovation, wirtschaftsnahe Forschung und Digitalisierung" (Industry, Innovation and Business-oriented Research and Digitalisation) of the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Economic Affairs, said: "Artificial intelligence is the key technology of the future –  in fact in almost all areas of life. The new competence centre ROBDEKON is an excellent example for the versatile implementation possibilities of intelligent applications. Medium-sized companies will profit from the technologies developed here in particular."

Lord Mayor of Karlsruhe, Dr. Frank Mentrup congratulated the four participating research institutions – besides the leading Fraunhofer IOSB, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the FZI Research Center for Information Technology and the Robotics Innovation Center of the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI) in Bremen – on the successful launch: "ROBDEKON is only one of two research centres for robot systems in misanthropic environments, which are funded in the framework of the BMBF programme "Research for Civil Security". This emphasises the particular significance of the City of Karlsruhe as science and technology location and its reputation for future developments in dealing with robot system at federal level."

Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Jürgen Beyerer, manager of the Fraunhofer IOSB, ROBDEKON spokesman and professor at KIT, explained the concept and the current status of the competence centre. "Since the start of the funding in 2018, we were able to build a unique research infrastructure, uniting all necessary technological competences and sustainably further developing them," said Beyerer. Robotics and hardware system development, aspects of artificial intelligence like environmental perception, orientation, motion planning or decision under uncertainty, but also the man-machine interaction are covered through the partners. In addition to that, the participating companies contribute precise knowledge of the application domains.

As central contact point for all questions on robot systems for decontamination tasks, ROBDEKON is open to all parties, who want to participate or work on their projects with the support of the centre's experts, as Beyerer emphasised. "We offer consulting services, gladly cooperate with further research institutions and wish for an intensive dialogue with the relevant industry, in order to work out targeted and practicable solutions. Our maxim is to provide maximum benefit for the society and economy with our bundling of competences."

The Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft is Europe’s leading application-oriented research organisation. 72 institutes and research institutions work under its umbrella at locations all over Germany. One of them is the Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB with around 500 employees in Karlsruhe, Ettlingen, Ilmenau, Lemgo, Görlitz and Peking.  Its research focuses are Industry 4.0, information management as well as multisensorial systems, which protect humans in the perception of its environment and the interaction. www.iosb.fraunhofer.de


ROBDEKON is one of the two competence centres for robot systems, which is funded by the BMBF as part of the programme called "Research for Civil Security" since 2018. The project is coordinated by the Fraunhofer Institute for Optronics, System Technologies and Image Exploitation IOSB in Karlsruhe. Research partners are the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT), the FZI Research Center for Information Technology in Karlsruhe and the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). Götting KG, Kraftanlagen Heidelberg GmbH, ICP Ingenieursgesellschaft Prof. Czurda und Partner mbH and the KHG Kerntechnische Hilfsdienst GmbH are involved as industrial partners. The duration is initially limited to four years. The aim is that the competence centre will continue to exist over the long term and act as an expert and user network for new technologies on the decontamination by means of robots. https://robdekon.de