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ARCHE 2022 - Swiss robotics for the disaster relief of the future

ARCHE is the largest Swiss event for studying robots intended for use in disaster relief. The event took place for the fifth time at the training village in Wangen an der Aare from 4 to 8 July 2022. Around 150 persons from the Armed Forces, science, industry and armasuisse were on the ground to test the latest technology in a realistic environment and for the purposes of disaster relief.

13.07.2022 | Lucas Ballerstedt, specialist area Communications, competence sector Resources and Support

Anymal is inspected by members of the army
ANYmal Robot

Working together for the cause

ARCHE has been held annually at the training village in Wangen an der Aare since 2018. This village offers a unique infrastructure, such as destroyed houses and facilities of rubble in which floods or fires can be simulated in buildings and industrial complexes. Robots are tested in this infrastructure for use in disaster relief. Professors, students and engineers from Swiss research institutes and robotics start-ups test their various robots in realistic environments, gather important data and continue to develop the systems on location. It is clear that the students’ research demonstrators have in part a low level of technological maturity and can therefore only be used in real operations to a limited extent. However, the ideas and proofs of principle are promising. The event also serves to identify promising approaches. Subsequently, work will be carried out jointly with the partners in order to further develop the robots to a higher level of technological maturity and suitability for use.

A selection of the systems

Apart from the systems which regularly participate in the ARCHE, such as the walking robot ANYmal or the automatic walking excavator Armano, various new projects were observed this year. The AITHON drilling drone project was started in September 2021 and has developed at a rapid pace. The drone can dock onto façades using suction cups and then drill holes in the wall using an integrated drill. The propellers provide the necessary pressure against the wall for this purpose. The flying robot could reduce the work of humans at dangerous heights and thus bring down the number of accidents.

Other drones from the Autonomous Systems Lab of ETHZ can accompany persons from danger zones or be used in mine clearance. For example, the drone can guide a person who has been blinded out of a danger zone. The other drone Voliro is equipped with a metal detector. It can fly over an area a short distance from the ground and thus detect metallic objects in the ground, such as mines or unexploded ordnances.

In addition, the ANYmal has acquired a big brother. The system has been developed into a stronger model by the name of «Barry». The robot can move loads of up to 100 kilograms. Barry was presented for the first time at the ARCHE. Barry could be used for various different tasks, such as logistics, rescue or reconnaissance work.

Thanks to experience in the modular design of the required sensor technology for the remote control of Armano, it was possible to equip a second machine (CAT, Armeno) with this technology within a short space of time. The new excavator with a working weight of 25,500 kilograms can process considerably more material than the previous Armano. It has been christened «Armeno».

The recovery robot «BoarAI» from the Grisons University of Applied Sciences has been further developed in comparison with the previous year. The system now has an extendable arm, which can be used to precisely attach a carabiner to a person. The robot can then rescue the person from the danger area. The drone from the same university scans areas for radiation. It systematically scans an area and detects contaminated objects. At the same time, the drone creates a map in real time, in which zones with a high level of radiation exposure are shown. 

« All those involved benefit from the exchange »

Brigadier Stefan Christen, Commander of the training unit Eng/Resc unit/NBC, sees a lot of potential in the cooperation and the ARCHE.

Every year, the ARCHE provides us with insights into the future working methods in military disaster relief. The individual systems are developing rapidly and it is very exciting to observe this development. New projects are also added every year. All those involved benefit from the exchange at the location and can learn from each other.

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