Contact Information

Clay Flannigan
Assistant Director
Robotics and Automation Engineering
(210) 522-6805
clay.flannigan@swri.org

Shaun Edwards
Principal Engineer
Robotics and Automation
(210) 522-3277
sedwards@swri.org

Robot Operating System (ROS)

ROS is being utilized for advanced robotics applications in dynamic and unconstrained environments.

ROS is being utilized for advanced robotics applications in dynamic and unconstrained environments.

Robotics and Automation Engineering and Intelligent Vehicle Systems (IVS) at Southwest Research Institute (SwRI) have utilized the Robot Operating System (ROS) as an enabling technology to develop complex intelligent systems. ROS is an open-source project that provides a common framework for robotics applications. With ROS, SwRI has been able to deliver technologically complex or previously infeasible systems for much lower costs. To date, SwRI has leveraged ROS applications in the areas of:

Industrial Robotics

ROS has been used for several commercial and internal research applications. Specifically ROS has enabled manipulation in dynamic and unconstrained environments.  Functional capabilities enabled by ROS, that extend above and beyond typical robot controller functionality, include:

Integrated 3D range sensors (time of flight, stereo vision). 3D point-cloud information is used natively by ROS software to:

  • Generate collision free robot paths
  • Identify and locate work pieces and/or obstacles

Custom Inverse Kinematics and Path Planning

  • Support for >6DOF robot arms
  • Singularity avoidance
  • Joint limit constraints

Well-Defined Robot Interface

  • Allows for comparison between robots
  • Decouples software development from robot manufacturer specific hardware/software

Autonomous Robotics

ROS has been used in the development of large autonomous vehicles for both military and commercial applications.  Functional capabilities related to autonomous vehicles include:

  • Vehicle interfaces including LIDAR, cameras, IMU, GPS, vehicle CAN bus, and actuation system
  • Realtime vehicle controller
  • Multiple path planners
  • Perception technologies including terrain classification, lane following, obstacle detection  and recognition
  • Persistent world model capable of fusing a priori map and terrain data with sensed information
  • Various autonomy modes including teleoperation, dismount following, convoying, and fully autonomous navigation
  • Simulation and data visualization tools

Industrial Robotics

image of an industrial application where SwRI used ROS for plane fitting of 3D range sensor data for a collection of objects.

In an industrial application, SwRI used ROS for plane fitting of 3D range sensor data for a collection of objects. The planes represent likely whole objects and possible areas for robot picking. This dynamic, on the fly, pick selection allows for more flexible pick and place type applications.

Autonomous Systems

image of SwRI's MARTI platform

SwRI's MARTI® platform is a stock 2006 Ford Explorer with additional actuators, computing and sensors. ROS can be used at all architecture levels above the real-time actuation control.


Related Terminology

automation engineering  •  manufacturing systems  •  robotics  •  Robot Operating System  •  ROS  •  off-road commercial vehicles  •  on-road commercial vehicles•  MARTI

Benefiting government, industry and the public through innovative science and technology
Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, is a multidisciplinary, independent, nonprofit, applied engineering and physical sciences research and development organization with 10 technical divisions.
04/15/14