Helen Greiner's Droid Works Wins First Gov't Grant for Flying Bots
But when I saw Greiner last night at 'What's Next in Tech,' she mentioned that the company had just landed its first government grant through the SBIR program (Small Business Innovation Research.) I did some searching, and discovered that the company is receiving almost $100,000 to develop flying bots that can operate indoors and out. The description of the work is fascinating, so I'll share it here -- and also mention that Greiner's last company, iRobot, was initially funded not by VCs but by government grants from agencies like NASA.
An Indoor/Outdoor Robotic Air Vehicle for Emergency Response
This Small Business Innovation Research Phase I research project will develop underlying technologies that will enable Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV) to navigate inside houses and buildings. This technology, applied to emergency response situations, will save the lives of police officers, victims, and suspects. Emergency response teams have been slow to adopt unmanned systems to aid in hostage situations, search and rescue, fire fighting, and armed standoffs. The impediment is the capabilities of the available unmanned system. Available ground robots are halted by rough terrain, large steps, and closed doors. Current UAVs can only be used outdoors. If UAVs could also take on indoor applications, they would surpass the capabilities of the ground robots as UAVs can traverse over any terrain, over any step, and enter and exit a building through any opening (including high windows). The technologies needed to enable for small UAVS to perform indoor missions are: indoor flight control and safety around people, which are the areas of the research proposed.
This project will prevent the loss of life in dangerous situations by reducing emergency response teams' exposure to lethal situations, by increasing the amount of situational information available to emergency response teams, by reducing the level of anxiety of besieged suspects, and by allowing remote inspection of places and things that are harmful to humans.
And if you want a window into some of Greiner's current thinking about bots and artificial intelligence, she wrote a piece this month for Forbes titled 'Who Needs Humanoids?'