Robotik-News by DRZ 2020

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I am working on building the centre of competence with passion and the will to add real value to protect and save people through robotics technology.“

Robert Grafe.
Managing Director

Dear readers,

In November 2015 in an abandoned steelworks, 30 researchers from all over Europe stood together with three small ground robots in freezing temperatures. A siren sounds, smoke rises above the site - hurry! The rescue robots are now supposed to show their skills and yet they don't move an inch, but why? The network has collapsed because, as it later turned out, an uninvolved notebook downloaded a Windows update, which led to an overload of the network. Frustration arose, after all, emergency forces should be able to experience and evaluate the handling of the robots live. So while the organiser is freezing on the premises, he is thinking: Such possibilities for intensive real-life tests should basically always be available and with less logistical effort!

Summer 2016: The organiser at the time was not alone with this idea. The Federal Ministry of Education and Research published a suitable call for proposals and the project "Establishing the German Rescue Robotics Centre" (A-DRZ) was born. Since 2018, we have now been working on accelerating the development of robots for rescue operations and developing practical solutions. To this end, we have founded the German Rescue Robotics Centre (Deutsches Rettungsrobotik-Zentrum e.V.), a non-profit organisation that networks the relevant stakeholders in the emergency services as well as experts from research and industry. In addition to a wide range of possibilities, the centre of excellence as an interdisciplinary test and research centre fulfils, among other things, the original idea of providing diverse as well as versatile test and trial environments.

With this short review of our genesis, I would like to welcome you to the first newsletter of the German Rescue Robotics Centre!

This newsletter is intended to inform you regularly in the future, to arouse curiosity and also to stimulate reflection. In the coming newsletters, which will be published every six months or so, we will always report on current topics relating to robotics, our project and our association. You can look forward to exciting reports and insights into rescue robotics, upcoming events and internal matters. Our goal is to get you excited about the topic of protecting and saving lives with the help of robotic systems.

I was immediately captivated by this technology of the future and the idea of relieving human emergency forces through robots, and I am grateful to be part of this special project. I cordially invite you to join us and develop new topics together! If you have suggestions, ideas and proposals for us or would like to find out about becoming a member of this unique network, please contact us.

I hope you enjoy reading


Robert Grafe.

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We introduce ourselves

What exactly is the non-profit association and what does the project of the same name deal with?

We now clarify these questions

The Association

The non-profit association Deutsches Rettungsrobotik-Zentrum e.V. (DRZ) was founded in 2018 to establish, operate and continuously expand the national centre of excellence. The DRZ provides impetus for research and development of rescue robotics technologies. It develops necessary standards, certifies and accelerates the dissemination of robots in protection and rescue as well as education and training. As a dialogue platform, the centre facilitates the exchange between research, industry, users and politics on all topics related to the use of robotic systems with autonomous and artificially intelligent functions in rescue services. Through our members, we are constantly expanding the DRZ network and working together on future-oriented rescue robotics.

The project is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), within the framework of the funding announcement "Civil Security - Innovation Laboratories / Competence Centres for Robot Systems in Hostile Environments".

The Project

The joint project with its 13 renowned partners is researching future technologies and the further development of artificial rescue intelligence with the overarching goal of establishing a centre of excellence. The heart of the project is the so-called "Living Lab". Here, the competence centre develops various test areas where new technologies for robot systems are systematically tested and further developed together with users for their suitability for use in various scenarios. This makes innovative research visible! The special feature of the project lies in its structure and the sustainable orientation through the non-profit association that has been founded.

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Network meeting

We explain the term network meeting and report about the last one

Meaning Network meeting

The A-DRZ meetings usually take place twice a year. Here, all collaborative partners come together, present the progress of their work in the project and work together on various issues or challenges on site. Many technical components that are being developed by the individual collaborative partners come together here, and interfaces are also reviewed, discussed and adapted in workshops and integration sprints.

Report from the last network meeting

On 7 May 2020, the 3rd joint meeting of the project took place with all project and associated partners and the project management organisation VDI-TZ. Due to the current situation around COVID-19, the meeting took place virtually.
In addition to an overview of the status of the overall network, the current work and developments were presented and an outlook on the next project half-year was given. In technical research, the first implementations could be shown for the module concept (picture below right). In the area of networking and wireless communication, the first functional models for the interoperable communication modules have been created. For the autonomous assistance functions, advances in the 3D laser scanner for mapping and obstacle avoidance were presented for both the airborne robot systems (UAV) and the ground-based robots (UGV). For the ground robots, autonomous 3D path planning for difficult terrain was also demonstrated (pictured below left). The further development of the user interface for data analysis of the situational awareness system was carried out with the involvement of the command levels in operations and task management (see following report). The focus was also on significantly increasing the performance and robustness of the overall system. In the area of human-robot interaction and teamwork, voice processing was expanded to enable the egocentric and omnocentric control of robot systems by means of speech in the future. A new compact and portable splash-proof navigation module has been developed for the ground-based robots.
Following the presentations of the current research work, there was the opportunity for further discussions as well as for the exchange accompanying the project.

This figure shows the visualisation of the autonomous 3D path planning for the automatic crossing of difficult terrain (Image source: TU Darmstadt)

This illustration shows the modular design of payloads for different application scenarios (Image source: Fraunhofer FKIE)

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International Advisory Board

An international team of experts supports with know-how the development of the competence centre

The International Advisory Board (IAB) is made up of international leaders in research, development and application of rescue robotics. It advises and supports the association in particular in larger national and international research, development, standardisation and application projects as well as in the international visibility and networking of the association and its corresponding strategic orientation. This includes, among other things, research at European and global level as well as activities whose complexity, regulatory requirements and economic potential can only be dealt with in an international context. Operational experience and standardisation are relevant topics here. The International Advisory Board currently comprises 8 renowned experts from France, Italy, USA, Russia, Japan and Germany. An exchange takes place at least 1-2 times a year. The IAB's willingness to provide active support underlines the importance of the competence centre - also at the international level. In the next newsletter we will report in more detail on the recent meeting of the IAB. Due to the current situation, this meeting could unfortunately only take place virtually and not, as initially planned, at Interschutz 2020.

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Become a member

We explain how you can become a member of the DRZ association

The non-profit association German Rescue Robotics Centre currently has 15 institutional members from the fields of research, application and industry. With their competence and expertise, the members support the non-profit association's purposes as a national centre of excellence for rescue robotics. In addition, members also create synergies for their own company, for example by exchanging information about the latest developments and trends in research, development and technologies available on the market, as well as insights into the ongoing results of our research project. Membership is open to all organisations that share the association's goal - to promote the dissemination of rescue robotics. The focus is on emergency services, companies, universities, research institutions, authorities and associations. In addition, natural persons can also apply for network membership. Further information on the association and membership fees can be found in the application for membership at:

Currently, the following institutions have become new members of the association this year:
+ BASF Werkfeuerwehr, Ludwigshafen
+ RWTH Aachen
+ hhpBerlin Ingenieure für Brandschutz

Managing Partner of hhpBerlin, Stefan Truthähn, on his motivation for becoming a member of the DRZ:

We are "Next Generation Fire Engineering". We are driven by the aspiration to shape the changing world: safer, more sustainable and more liveable. With individual fire protection concepts, effective solutions and forward-looking engineering methods, we accompany our customers from the idea to the finished building. Safety must be constantly rethought. We want to help shape this process. "Our commitment is derived from the idea of making our findings usable for future rescue tools. This requires an exchange among like-minded people - which is what the DRZ offers."

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Rescue robotics - technical development

Situation picture system and situation picture generation

The use of robotic systems for civilian terrestrial security allows emergency forces to obtain data and information at operation sites that otherwise could not be obtained at all or only at great risk. Especially in complex mission scenarios, it is important for the forces to have a clear picture of the current situation of the operational area and the situation of the deployed robotic systems. Therefore, it is necessary to continuously collect all data recorded during operations at a central location, process it and make it available to the task forces in a suitable form within a situation picture system.

The situation picture system developed within the framework of the A-DRZ project, under the leadership of Fraunhofer IAIS, provides the necessary functionality for the collection and persistence of a wide range of sensor data, and also enables the system to display the collected data georeferenced in a three-dimensional map display. The design of the system is based on common situation picture displays such as the tactical worksheet or the tactical work board of the Institute of the Fire Brigade NRW and is continuously evaluated and further developed within the framework of the project in cooperation with the Dortmund Fire Brigade through user studies.

Figure: Situation display with three-dimensional map view and task management. The position of the fire brigade groups belonging to the fire brigade is visualised in the 3-D representation. An overview of the command operations is displayed in the form of a kanban board (right side). Bildquelle Fraunhofer IAIS

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News from the association

Our new location opens up many possibilities for us and our partners / members

Endlich ist es soweit! Am 1. Juli 2020 haben wir unsere neuen Räumlichkeiten im Dortmunder Norden auf dem Gelände Zeche Westhausen im Stadtteil Bodelschwingh bezogen. Neben einer 1.300 Quadratmeter großen Versuchshalle steht uns an diesem Standort ein ausreichendes Außengelände mit 3500 m² zur Verfügung. Dort können Tests unter realen Bedingungen stattfinden. Durch die Ausstattung des Standorts mit modernster Kommunikations- und Messtechnik entsteht eine in Europa einzigartige Forschungs- und Testeinrichtung. In den Testfeldern im Innenbereich können modulare Testszenarien für Boden- aber auch Flugroboter geschaffen werden. Somit kann man Umgebungen flexibel an die Anforderungen der Nutzenden anpassen. Auf dem Außengelände können anwendungsnahe Szenarien, wie zum Beispiel zertrümmerte und schwer begehbare Bereiche, nachgestellt werden. So können wir unseren Mitgliedern, Partnern und interessierten Organisationen und Institutionen ermöglichen, die Zukunftstechnologie Rettungsrobotik auf einzigartige Weise voranzubringen. Uns ist es auch ein Anliegen, allen Akteuren auf dem Gebiet der Rettungsrobotik zu zeigen, wie Robotik helfen kann, Menschenleben zu schützen und Einsatzkräfte effizient zu unterstützen. Auch die Geschäftsstelle unseres Vereins wird auf dem neuen Gelände ihren Platz finden. Damit haben wir alle notwendigen Kompetenzen an einem Ort gebündelt und können schnell und flexibel agieren.

The figure shows the visualisation of a planned configuration of the use and equipment of the test hall of the DRZ

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Public dates


Here we give an outlook on upcoming events and important dates of the DRZ

  • Unveiling of our RobLW - summer 2020
  • Inauguration of the new location - autumn-winter 2020

Association dates

  • Integration sprint for alliance partners and members
    28.09.2020 - 02.10.2020 in Bad Oldesloe
  • Milestone meeting for partners, members and associated partners
    December 2020 in Dortmund
  • General Meeting - 04.12.2020 in Dortmund

Due to the Corona pandemic, many dates and robotics competitions have unfortunately been postponed until next year, which we at the DRZ are eagerly awaiting to show off our demonstrators!

Exciting topics await you again in our next newsletter, exciting topics await you again at the end of the year. Among other things, we will present our demonstrators in a profile, report on the meeting of the Internatial Advisory Board and provide information on training opportunities and UAV guidelines. Stay informed! Ende des Jahres erwarten Sie wieder spannende Themen. Unter anderem werden wir unsere Demonstratoren anhand eines Steckbriefes vorstellen, über das Treffen des Internatial Advisory Boards berichten und zum Thema Ausbildungsmöglichkeiten sowie Richtlinien UAV Auskunft geben. Bleiben Sie informiert!

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Responsible for the content of the newsletter:
Deutsches Rettungsrobotik-Zenrum e.V.
Rohdesdiek 32
44357 Dortmund

If you have any questions or comments, just send us an e-mail: