On the 5th March 2015, almost 100 people attended the first National Symposium on Field Robotics, held at the Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre in Rotherham.
The symposium, supported by the EPSRC UK RAS Network, was hosted by Sheffield Robotics in order to bring together field robotics centres and facilities throughout the UK and move towards creation of a national network of field robotics facilities to collectively rival those in the US and Europe. Specific topics discussed were robots and autonomous systems in challenging environments such as space, nuclear, mining, agriculture, infrastructure, and search & rescue, all topics identified in the 2014 RAS-SIG Strategy document.
The event attracted delegates from large industry, academia, SMEs and national science facilities to discuss real-world challenges and state of the art research in applied robotics. Speakers from a range of organisations outlined novel uses for robotics and autonomous systems, as well as highlighting the available facilities and expertise across the UK in these areas
Invited speakers from all three sessions also took part in animated panel discussions. These revolved around common industrial needs and challenges, including: the need for innovative solutions that could be delivered by university partnerships and national assets; legislation, safety and the demand for ethical decision-making, particularly for unmanned systems; technology drivers, including improvements in value and efficiency, and competitions -which were identified as an important driver for focusing on real-world problems, enthusing students and building communities.