NERDlab upgrade supported by the TU Delft Space Institute

The NERDlab (Networked Embedded Robotics in Delft) is a research and educational test laboratory, located at the Delft Center for Systems and Control within the premises of the TU Delft 3mE Faculty. It opened two years ago, with a focus on developing novel distributed algorithms in the field of robotics by providing a variety of low-cost platforms and sensor nodes. Using a modular software framework, the lab setup aims at providing students with an easy to use environment that allows them to experimentally validate their algorithms, on resource-constrained, commercial off-the-shelf platforms. The application areas of the developed algorithms include automotive, aeronautical, aerospace, maritime, and mobile or cooperative robot systems.

The lab possesses a continuously growing number of various platforms, from autonomous wheeled mobile robots to hovercraft, small-scale RC cars, quadrotors, and various swarm robots. In the first two years of operation, it has hosted over 75 people working on diverse projects, including BSc, MSc, PhD students, postdocs, several scientific staff, and external parties. Data collection and testing is performed in a safe environment, surrounded by nets that protect the moving robots, vehicles, and the researchers.

Arguably the most important feature in such a motion capture arena is the localization system. With financial support from the TU Delft Space Institute, the localization system of the lab has recently undergone a significant upgrade, and several new platforms were added to aid in the study of Distributed Space Systems and Space Robotics.

The lab now employs ten high-tech infrared cameras that publish the location and orientation of objects with a millimeter accuracy at a rate of 360 FPS, with a latency of few milliseconds. This allows accurate tracking of fast-moving objects in an area of about 4 by 9 meters. Besides the TU Delft Space Institute, the NERDlab is supported by the TU Delft Robotics Institute, and the Faculty of 3mE.