The Living Lab in detail

Details of the DRZ Living Lab

The heart of the DRZ is the Living Lab and there are many individual highlights. What makes our experimental hall with adjoining outdoor area so special is presented below on a more detailed level.

  • The house façade

In the Living Lab we aim to recreate as many different scenarios as possible. For this purpose, our hall master builds the most versatile test stations possible.

One of these structures is the house façade, which is a replica of a two-storey residential building. This structure will be used to train the practical exploration of house walls with drones. Possible scenarios are, for example, autonomous scouting, the detection of heat signatures or the detection of signs of life.

The building consists of dry construction elements and commercially available windows and doors. The door on the ground floor is also used for practising with floor robots. Here, the precise opening of doors can be trained, so that in an emergency the procedures run routinely and quickly without endangering the emergency services.

  • The control station
  • The workshop
  • The 3D-Printer

Basically, our control station is two monitor workstations equipped with docking stations. Two monitors are available to which the operators can connect their laptops. The docking stations are each connected to two of the monitors, and at the same time the image signals are tapped and sent to a central PC.

The control room is a specific area in the Living Lab, which is not only used to acclimatise the emergency forces to typical operational scenarios by means of controllable environmental conditions (e.g. quiet or background noises typical of the operation that can be played in). It is also used to observe the trainees in isolation during the training sessions.

For this purpose, several cameras were installed in the control room: One webcam per workstation to observe people's gestures and facial expressions and a wide-angle camera with integrated microphone to monitor the entire table and record the conversations.

For these requirements, an aluminium construction was built that stands on rollers and can therefore also be flexibly rolled through the hall. The advantage: the associated technology such as docking stations, monitors, HDMI splitters for splitting the image signals, or the component for bundling the four signals again and sending them to the central PC can be integrated directly into the table. The signals of the training monitoring (gestures and facial expressions) are also forwarded to the central PC. In addition, there are loudspeakers in the room for which the control desk is intended to play sounds.

In everyday use, however, this table also offers the advantage of providing a flexible PC workstation in the hall.

First of all, we would like to start with the place where a lot of things were created for the Living Lab: the workshop.

Basically, the title already says what this area is for. In the workshop there is the possibility to carry out various work - starting with the realisation of new constructions up to work on the robots.

The workshop is equipped with tools from KS Tools, Metabo or Kraftwerk. Furthermore, machines have been lent or donated to the DRZ, such as the welding machine, the drill press or our massive welding table. These machines enable us to saw material exactly to size or to drill recesses with our pillar drilling machine and also to weld metal components together. Although many things are made of metal, our hall master prefers to build structures such as the DRZ Challenge out of wood. Because of this, the Living Lab is also well equipped for woodwork. The workshop offers everything from a cross-cut saw with adjustable angle to a classic foxtail saw and a chisel, all of which is necessary for such work.

However, because something sometimes needs to be soldered quickly while experiments are being carried out, the workshop also has a soldering station. At the soldering work table, circuit boards can be soldered or other soldering work can be carried out professionally at any time.

So you see, at the DRZ Living Lab nothing is left to chance and we are equipped to carry out any work with the utmost precision.

The 3D printer that is part of the DRZ's equipment is called the Ultimaker S5. It prints the components by building up the plastic layer by layer. This type of printing is called fused layer modelling. The layers laid on top of each other in this way are usually between 0.1 and 0.2 mm thick. The possible construction volume which we can produce in this way is 330 x 240 x 300 mm. The print layer calibrates itself automatically before each print. This ensures that the first layer adheres well to the print bed. The printing plane consists of a glass plate on which direct printing takes place. The glass is heated to approx. 60 degrees for this purpose. The plastic that is extruded from the nozzle has approx. 210 degrees.

The plastic used (PLA) is relatively robust and also suitable for mechanical applications. However, it is very sensitive to temperature. In warm environments, the plastic becomes soft and thus deforms easily. Without this temperature-related deformability, however, printing would not be so easy. Depending on the planned component, a water-soluble supporting material is also printed. This supports the construction during the printing process. Finally, the component is only held under water and the supporting material dissolves.

The prices for the plastic used already start at 20€/Kg and are thus comparatively cheap. This and the many "open source" components that can be downloaded from the internet make 3D printing easy and comparatively inexpensive.

This makes printing relatively inexpensive and is particularly suitable for the production of prototypes. However, printing takes a long time and depends on a number of variables such as layer thickness, which in turn affects accuracy and optics. Other parameters influence the robustness of the components.

The components produced in the DRZ are used when they neither require particularly strong robustness nor are used in particularly warm environments, e.g. as a holder for sensors. Each of our robots has more or less 3D-printed components somewhere.
At the moment, a dosimeter (for radioactivity) is being procured, so as soon as this arrives and we know the exact dimensions, we will use our 3D printer to design and print a precisely fitting holder, for example. This will be used on the D2.

For custom manufacturing, the model must first be created in a CAD programme (e.g. Solidworks or Solid Edge). The finished, digital model is then saved and sent through the 3D printer's software. In this software, the printing parameters (speed, layer thickness, degree of filling of the component, thickness of the outer walls ) are set. Only then do the print nozzles start moving and create the component. A long process for a small plastic component.

  • Die DRZ-Challenge
  • UAV-Pilot-Skills-Parcours
  • Motion Capture-System

The DRZ Challenge is a test field for floor robots. Various scenarios can be tested in this realistic replica of three consecutive rooms (e.g. a laboratory). The first obstacle is opening a door. In the following room, various obstacles can be installed that the floor robot has to overcome. In the second room, a fog machine can be connected to limit the robot's visibility. The loss of power or the flickering of lights can also be simulated here. The robot has to cross the room in an S-shape. In the last room there are different types of valves. Here, the robot can perform manipulation tasks. In addition, there is enough space to install further obstacles. The dimensions of the DRZ Challenge are 10 (L) x 2 (W) metres.

Not only is the expansion of the outdoor area progressing, but the construction of our training centre is also taking shape. For this purpose, our technical employee, in cooperation with the head of the training centre, has designed a versatile -Parcours.

With the brand new UAV Pilot Skills Course, now adapted an American test standard that was developed for the education and training of drone pilots. In a course made of stands in combination with objects or, for example, vehicles, flying skills are trained and routines consolidated. The level of difficulty of the training programmes can be adapted to the performance level of the participants under near-operational conditions, for example, by setting time limits or special tasks such as object search, identification of objects and precise dropping or depositing of objects. Leistungsstand The training design is scalable and thus offers the possibility of varied training variants in relation to VLOSand BVLOSflights, also with the integration of further functions of a drone squad.

The first test flights have already been completed by and drones.has drone pilot, within the framework of the vfdb annual meeting 2021. The pilot was able to determine that, depending on the obstacle, high precision is required and that the flight path must be readjusted again and again. In connection with the other versatile test environments, such as the replica shelf warehouse, the DRZ has Living Lab offers a unique combination of training opportunities for robots and drones..

Our motion capture system consists of 40 individual special cameras and a powerful computer. The cameras are all networked with each other and deliver their information to this computer. The system is used to track robots (UAVs and UGVs) and determine their exact position in the hall. The users can then receive this information directly from the software. Alternatively, or in addition, there will be interfaces to transmit the determined positions in real time to the robot so that it can orientate itself in space. In this role, the system will represent a kind of virtual GPS system, which is needed, for example, when stable GPS reception is not possible indoors. In addition, tests (e.g. speed measurements) can be carried out precisely.

This works approximately like this: The robot has three "markers" attached to it: Three "markers" (balls of different sizes) are attached to the robot, which must be seen by at least two cameras. The more cameras have a clear view of the markers, the more accurate the tracking. Accuracies of up to approx. 0.03 mm can be measured in space. Not only the position but also the orientation (e.g. inclination of a robot during certain actions) can be determined. 40 cameras may sound a lot at first, when two are actually sufficient. However, since obstacles are often to be expected in the set-ups, only a few cameras will be able to see the three markers at any one time. And: The more cameras are used, the larger the area that can be tracked - and the accuracy increases.