What makes the envisaged scenario interesting and potentially very rich from a scientific viewpoint is the heterogeneity and the potential capabilities of the different actors of the SHERPA system that complement and enrich each other. Specifically, each actor can be better characterized in the following way:
- The human rescuer is potentially able to provide high-value inputs to the team due to his experience in the field and incomparable cognitive capabilities. On the other hand, the demanding rescuing activity and the hostile environment characterizing the targeted applications, make the rescuer presumably busy and focused on the task to be accomplished, and thus unable to lead and supervise the team continuously.
The peculiarity of the real world scenario in which the human and the robotic platform operate affects the way in which they interact. The rescuer cannot be flooded with un-relevant information that might distract him from the ongoing task, and he is expected to provide inputs to the robotic platform in a natural way, through sketchy inputs to be properly interpreted by the robot.
In this context the rescuer plays the role of “busy genius” of the team: he is very likely distracted by demanding rescuing activities and just able to provide sketchy, though high-value, inputs towards the achievement of the team goal.
- The ground rover serves the scope of carrying vehicle and docking station for the small-scale rotary-wing UAVs.
It is characterized by remarkable autonomy, payload, and onboard "intelligence", confined in the powerful computational Hw installed on the "SHERPA Box". On the other hand it has intrinsic limits in terms of ability of reaching wild areas and overtaking big natural obstacles (such as rocks and trees) that are typically present in the considered real-world environment.
It plays the role of the "intelligent donkey" of the team.
- The small-scale UAVs are characterized by limited autonomy and onboard intelligence (due to payload constraints) but with incomparable capabilities in terms of capturing data (like visual information) from privileged positions, high-manoeuvrability, hovering on hot targets, and following the rescuer in inaccessible (by ground) areas.
Its radius of action is necessarily confined in the neighbourhood of the hosting ground rover due to the limited duration of the batteries.
They play the role of "trained wasps" of the team.
- The fixed-wing and the Rmax rotary-wing UAVs are characterized by matchless eagle-eyed capabilities that allow it to patrol large areas with a limited amount of energy (in case of the fixed-wing configuration) and remarkable payload and ability to fly in critical weather conditions (in case of the Rmax rotary-wing vehicle). On the other side their configurations and safety issues force them to fly at high-altitude and far from obstacles and human beings.
The "highaltitude" information captured by these vehicles enables optimization and coordination of the local activities of the team and complement the aerial capabilities of the small-scale rotary-wing whose operating radius is necessarily confined in the neighborhood of the rescuer.
They play the role of "patrolling hawks" of the team.