Cuba making rapid advances in robotics

Cuban scientists are reported to have been making significant advances in robotics.

Recent reports in Granma have said that Cuban research institutions and universities are developing autonomous Unmanned Aerial Vehicles with applications to precision agriculture. The official publication also reported that progress has been made in developing remotely controlled undersea submersibles.

Granma quoted Dr Luis Hernández Santana from the Central University Marta Abreu of Las Villas (UCLV) as saying that because of exposure to the world of mobile robots at international events, UCLV decided to establish an Automation, Robotics and Perception Group (GARP) which built a small unmanned helicopter. This led Cuba’s Center for Naval Research and Development (CIDNAV), to request GARP to establish a similar programme to develop an underwater robot.

“Although it was a very big challenge …. our first objective was to programme the submarine’s autopilot, and then focus on the control systems”, Dr Hernández was quoted as saying. In an interview he noted that his team was able to develop the architecture of the software, the hardware and the rest of the engineering of the vehicle, thereby reducing Cuba’s technological gap in relation to the world’s most developed countries undertaking such activities.

Dr Hernández said that the system created was successfully subjected to experimental evaluations for two years resulting in the development of an automatic control system (autopilot) for submersible devices. The Granma report said that tests showed guaranteed stable navigation and tracking using global positioning systems.

The achievement, the publication observed, was subsequently recognised by the Cuban Academy of Sciences, as being the ‘the greatest contribution to the defense of the country’ by the Ministry of Higher Education.

The article also noted that by making improvements to closed and open source systems, researchers in robotics at UCLV had been able to develop other autonomous vehicles.

With support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (Cosude), GARP had explored precision agriculture, a concept largely unknown in Cuba, which in developed countries has begun to improve farming efficiency and productivity.

Granma said that GARP had then focused its efforts on the development of drones and the accompanying technology, such as photogrammetry, multispectral cameras and image processing, with which pests, diseases, nutrient deficits and water can be detected. With the acquisition of a multispectral camera coupled with a drone, data was obtained, that once processed by a specialised software, yielded a low-cost range of information relevant to improving Cuban agronomy, the report said.

The GARP project reportedly involved the support of specialists from academic institutions in Spain and Belgium, through financing and access to essential technologies. Cuba recently indicated that it is engaged in exploring the development of a high-speed computing capacity.

This is an extract from the Caribbean Council’s weekly editorially independent publication, Cuba Briefing, which provides in depth information on current economic, political and commercial developments in Cuba and news on events in Europe and the US that affect the region. Business people, academics, and those with a general interest in Cuba find it an invaluable tool for developing and maintaining knowledge and providing an insight into political, economic and commercial events in the region

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