International Aerial Robotics Competition
The 2nd Mission was to fly into an area where an unknown number of toxic waste drums were purported to be located. After finding each drum and mapping its location from the air relative to global positioning satellite (GPS) system coordinates, the aerial robots were then to look down and read the labels on the drums to identify the contents of each. The contents and the drum position had to be correlated. Having accomplished these tasks, the aerial robot was then to move in close to one of the drums and extract a sample (simulated by an orange metal disk located on one of the drums). Which drum contained the disk was not know beforehand.
During the 1996 event, the MIT team was able to locate all five drums and correctly identify the contents of two of them. No attempt was made to retrieve the sample. In 1996, the number of drums was known a priori (five), and the spacing of the drums was guaranteed such that no two drums could be touching. Two types of toxic waste were identified by the drum labels: Biohazardous material, and Radioactive material. For 1997, things got harder. The number of drums was an unknown. They could be touching (so the robots had to be able to distinguish the drums from the shadows that might be cast by the drums themselves), and a third type of toxic waste was added to the list: picric acid (C6H2(NO2)3 OH), a poisonous, explosive crystalline solid. The new drum label for the explosive picric acid was made to be a "morph" of the biohazard and radioactive drum labels to increase the difficulty in distinguishing each. Finally, from a mission and scoring standpoint, obtaining the sample was no longer optional.