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Watch this drone-guided robot empty the trash

Students unveil prototype system for automated garbage collection

A group of college students has developed a drone-controlled robot capable of identifying and emptying trash cans. The robot was created under Volvo's Robot-based Autonomous Refuse handling (ROAR) project, which the Swedish automaker announced last year. Students from three universities collaborated with Volvo and the waste management company Renova to develop the system over the course of four months, before unveiling it today.

Under their prototype system, the trash-collecting robot is attached to the back of a garbage truck, with a drone positioned on top of the vehicle. When the driver presses a button, the drone lifts off to scan the area for bins and communicates their locations to the robot. The robot then uses LIDAR, GPS, cameras, and other sensors to fetch the trash bin and empty it while the driver monitors it all from the comfort of the truck. The group added some safety features, as well, including an emergency button that stops the robot if any children or small animals run out in front of it. The truck also has a camera that will halt the entire process if someone gets too close.

The ROAR project aims to develop and test robotic concepts, so it's not clear whether this system will ever be produced. But Volvo thinks it's a sign of things to come. "We predict a future with more automation," Per-Lage Götvall of the Volvo Group said in a statement. "This project is intended to stimulate our imagination, to test new concepts that may shape transport solutions of the future."