This paper describes current progress in a project to develop robotic systems for locating underground chemical sources. There are a number of economic and humanitarian applications for this technology. Finding unexploded ordinance, land mines, and sources of leaks from pipes and tanks are some examples. Initial experiments were conducted using an ethanol chemical source buried in coarse sand. To gain an understanding of the sensory environment that would be experienced by a robot burrowing through the ground, the factors affecting transport of chemical vapour through soil were investigated. A robot search algorithrn was then developed for gathering chemical gradient inforrnation and using this to guide a robot towards the source. Experiments were performed using a chemical sensing probe positioned by a UMI RTX robot manipulator arm. The resulting system was successful in locating a source of ethanol vapour buried in sand. This paper includes details of experiments to characterise the sand used in this project, the robot search algorithm, sensor probe and results of source location trials.
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