The past weeks have shown us that the fundamental mechanisms of our society are extremely prone to failure. Medical care and research, transport, agriculture and food supply, as well as industrial manufacturing, are not prepared for pandemic emergencies.

Robotic components can be used to strengthen these four pillars of our society and economy. Therefore, the FUTURO Young Investigator Group is shifting part of the focus towards pandemic prepardenes in the future. In particular, we will try to leverage our knowledge on teleoperation to make a difference in two areas:

  1. Unknown virus hazards prevented lab work at low biosafety levels. In the short term, it will be investigated which experiments can be performed by an isolated, remote-controlled robot. Based on this, concepts for new laboratories will be developed, designed to be operated by autonomous robots.
  2. National isolation has led to bottlenecks in food supply chains. Concepts for servicing of greenhouses are to be developed in order to enable fully autonomous and self-sustained cultivation of crops. Eventually, we aim to scale cultivation concepts to full autonomy and high throughput.

The solutions envisaged aim both to be prepared in the event of a new pandemic and to improve the performance of the economy in normal operations. Teleoperation concepts as they are investigated in FUTURO and tested by astronauts like Alexander Gerst may be a possible solution. In this way, we can draw added value from our experience despite difficult times, and together create a new normality.

Image Credit: ESA